THE REMARKABLE ANDREW (Stuart Heisler, 1942)

Dalton Trumbo, it turns out, had a sense of humor; based on his 1940 novel, Chronicle of a Literal Man, his script for Stuart Heisler’s whimsical The Remarkable Andrew certifies this. A dedicated young city accountant, Andrew Long, is hauled into court on a charge of extortion trumped up by crooked politicians whose embezzlement he has uncovered. But another “remarkable Andrew,” the ghost of Long’s idol Andrew Jackson, has gathered a dream-team of legal counsel for the boy: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Marshall. (Jesse James is also onboard: why, I don’t know.) Andy alone can see these spirits, and at one point the trial judge, in on the take, offers to exonerate the boy on the grounds of insanity. We, however, do not doubt that the ghosts are real; Andy Long has no doubts either.
     William Holden stars as Andy Long—a dazzlingly funny performance that the National Board of Review remembered at year’s end. Holden’s honest, almost maniacally efficient civil servant is wonderful to watch, not the least because the characterization is untouched by the kind of self-righteousness that Mr. Deeds or Mr. Smith might have brought to the part.
     Brian Donlevy, such a good actor, had the bad luck to be Oscar-nominated for one of his rare bad performances, in Wild Bill Wellman’s Beau Geste (1939). Donlevy is thus most famous for “going blatant” in a cartoonishly villainous role. (He was never at his best playing villains.) Here, as General Jackson, he and Holden share a couple of truly hilarious scenes. Jackson’s reactions to unfamiliar features of this later time—for instance, a radio—seem forced, however. This is not a perfect film.
     Long’s romance with his loyal girlfriend is perfunctory, and Jackson’s hanging around on their honeymoon grates.

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