LUCKY PARTNERS (Lewis Milestone, 1940)

Greenwich Village bookseller Jean Newton on an impulse convinces a stranger, quixotic neighbor David Grant, to share with her for good luck a sweepstakes ticket; he extracts her promise, as a condition, that she go on a Platonic “honeymoon” with him, should they win anything, before she settles down by marrying insurance salesman Freddy Harper. The “lucky partners” get their trip, with Freddy breathing down their necks, and, of course, fall in love with one another.
     Adapting a story by French playwright and filmmaker Sacha Guitry (John Van Druten and Astaire-Rogers Allan Scott are the principal writers), Lucky Partners blends fairy-tale wonder, sparkling romance and quirky, funny, intermittently hilarious character-drven comedy. Lewis Milestone, who won the first of two directorial Oscars for comedy (Two Arabian Nights, 1928), never achieved anything else in cinema the equal of this dreamy romance.
     Ronald Colman is wonderful—perfect, really—as David, who, it turns out, is incognito; a painter who spent three years in prison because a judge deemed his illustrations for a book pornographic (the book has, since, become recognized as a classic), he has more or less dropped out of life. He is ripe for the redemption that Jean will bring to him. Jean’s case is equally tough. Running her own store, Jean longs for independence and self-determination, as well, in other areas of her life. This she could never have with jealous, conventional Freddy; but she can have this with David Grant. Don’t tell me that Hollywood comedies never have any real meat!
     Ginger Rogers is fabulous—and gorgeous—as Jean. What a complex character! We see Jean’s initial attraction to the bullying security that Freddy offers, how Jean coldly manipulates this to David’s disadvantage; we also see in her skepticism to David’s offer of sexual neutrality the conventionality that is at war with her suppressed hopeful heart. In court (yes, this all ends in front of a judge), she unravels her tangle of ambivalence with a ringing speech in favor of the “sensitivity” of, and freedom of expression necessary for, society’s artists. Each time I see this magical film, I end up in tears.
     For Rogers, whose favorite movie star was Colman, this project was a dream-come-true.
     Jack Carson is a hoot as piggish Freddy; Spring Byington, a riot as Jean’s misunderstanding Aunt Lucy.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.

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