Thursday, June 4, 2015

Nice Girl? (1941)

Franchot Tone and Deanna Durbin paired up for their first film Nice Girl? in 1941. At the time, Deanna Durbin was an innocent operatic ingenue just turning 20 years old while Franchot Tone, at 36, was marrying for the second time to young actress Jean Wallace. In Nice Girl?, Franchot's character deems Deanna's character much too young for his own, but in real life, Franchot's new bride was only 18 years old!

Deanna Durbin plays Jane Dana, a teen who helps her scientist father Oliver (the always humorous Robert Benchley) with his experiments. Oliver is an incredibly gentle and kind father to his three daughters and reminds me of Claude Rains' character in the 1938 film Four Daughters. Actually, there are a few set-ups in this film (all of the girls playing various instruments with their father, the wholesome main character caught between the hometown love she's always known and the outsider, etc.) that remind me a great deal of Four Daughters. I don't mind the similarities, because Four Daughters is a favorite film of mine and Nice Girl? definitely tells its own delightful story.

Richard Calvert (Franchot Tone) visits the Dana household to meet with and study the work of Oliver Dana, who is being considered for a sponsored fellowship. Immediately, all three daughters are attracted to the handsome and intelligent Richard, but their attempts at seduction only amuse him.

Robert Stack (as Jane's boyfriend Don) and Franchot Tone
Jane is frustrated by the lack of attention she receives from her sweetheart Don (a young Robert Stack) and hatches a plan. She is determined to prove to Don and the entire town that she is not the nice girl they assume her to be, and so, she finds a way to stay alone with the attractive, older man Richard overnight. Richard inadvertently breaks Jane's heart when she overhears him saying that he sees her as just a kid. Jane drives back home, but keeps up the pretense that she has enjoyed a love affair with Richard to her schoolmates.

Richard returns to Jane's hometown to award her father the fellowship and finds himself in quite a predicament at the Red Cross benefit where Jane announces their engagement.

Nice Girl? is a light story, but truly heart-warming and entertaining. As expected, Deanna performs several lovely numbers during the film. Before I ever watched one of their films, I wondered how Deanna and Franchot would ever work well together. They just didn't seem well-matched to me. The reality is that they are wonderful together in all three of their films. Deanna and Franchot just seem to play off each other so brilliantly! Although they don't always end up together, there is always chemistry present between their characters. My favorite of their films is His Butler's Sister (here's my post about that one), but I highly recommend Nice Girl? to anyone who enjoys light musical comedies with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

No comments:

Post a Comment