Saturday, May 21, 2016

Honeymoon (1947)

As part of Movies Silently's Classic Movie Ice Cream Social, I am happy to share my go-to movie when I need some instant cheer. The film is 1947's Honeymoon and the stars are none other than Franchot Tone and a grown-up Shirley Temple (does a more cheerful actress even exist?).

Honeymoon has a sunny plot with lots of hilarious mishaps, but it's also a sentimental watch for me because it combines the classic actor who lifts my spirits as an adult and the classic actress who brightened my days as a child. I think most classic film fans have a handful of stars (or more) that they connect with on a deeper level than others. I know that there are some film stars that I enjoy watching and can leave it at that...then there are some that compel me to keep digging. I watch one performance and suddenly, I must watch every performance, read every book, and see every photo on that person. There's a connection there that you feel for some actors and like many, I first felt it for Shirley.

When I was in elementary school, my teacher read us a juvenile novel set in the 1930's. The book referenced Shirley Temple and what an important symbol of hope and happiness she was for down-on-their-luck audiences of the Depression. Shirley intrigued me and I was gifted a VHS copy of Curly Top for Christmas. I remember my mom saying, "It's okay if you don't like it. It might be boring...too old. It won't hurt my feelings if you don't like it." Now, I had watched classic movies before. I loved Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Miracle on 34th Street, Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and all of the live-action Disney movies from the 1960's as a kid. But Curly Top was different...I watched it over and over and was mesmerized by the tiny little girl with a mop of curls and dimples for miles. I was not a sad child, but I was a loner and a bit anxious. Shirley felt like a friend. She was the first classic film star I collected. Curly Top alone was not enough. I saved all my money for more Shirley movies and requested them at every holiday. I neatly filed all my Shirley VHS tapes on my shelf and in each case, proudly inserted handwritten index cards full of trivia I'd learned. When I was 11, I did my school book report on Shirley's 500+ paged autobiography, Child Star (it didn't gain me any popularity, ha!). Hers was the first Hollywood book I pored over, her life story the first that interested me, and her films the first I treasured. I know I've wandered a bit off topic from Honeymoon here, but I felt it necessary to say that the cheerful Shirley was my gateway into classic film appreciation and collecting. Thanks, Shirley!

12 years after my beloved Curly Top was released, a 19-year-old and newly married Shirley Temple was cast in the RKO comedy Honeymoon. The film revolves around Barbara, an innocent but pesky teenage girl who has traveled to Mexico City to marry equally innocent Phil (Guy Madison). When "Philsy Love" as she refers to him doesn't arrive, Barbara seeks help from the American consul David Flanner (Franchot Tone). Planning a wedding of his own, the older Mr. Flanner assures Barbara that her fiancee will turn up and sends her away...just before Phil does show up—at his office! In trying to reunite the meddlesome lovers, keep them together, and get them out of his hair, David is alternately amused and annoyed by their antics.  Each time he bids them farewell, Barbara and Phil return to him with a new problem: required blood tests, marriage license woes, age requirements, break-ups, make-ups. David Flanner begins to spend so much time alone helping the sweet and youthful Barbara that his own fiancee and her family grow suspicious. And with good reason! Barbara begins to see Phil as immature compared to David.

Although it's obvious that he thinks Barbara is lovely, David never returns her affection and realizes that all Barbara needs is a good bump on the head (it'll make sense when you watch it!) to redirect her attention back to Phil and get his own life back.

David Flanner (Franchot) seeing Barbara (Shirley Temple) in a swimsuit at the pool.
When she is teaching him the latest dance moves, Barbara compares David to actor Walter Pidgeon (Franchot's costar in Man-Proof and Advise & Consent) due to his handsomeness and dignity. She likens David to the leading man you watch from the audience, the man who sweeps you off your feet. Barbara describes Phil as the real man in your life, the one who drives you to the theater and takes you home after you've finished swooning for the Walter Pidgeons of the world. Later in a favorite scene of mine, David uses Barbara's comparison when he is trying to convince Barbara to return to Phil. As David, Franchot says:

To you, I'm a sort of Walter Pidgeon, I suppose. I'm that glamorous thing called maturity that you're so eager to grow into. And to me, you're that glamorous thing called youth that I'm so sorry to have grown out of, see?

Variety reported that the film lost the studio money and Bosley Crowthers negatively reviewed Honeymoon for the New York Times, calling it a "frivolous item, for which frivolous is really a flattering word." The plot may be a bit on the frivolous side, but you'll have so much fun watching it that you won't notice.  Shirley, Guy, and Franchot are all perfectly suited for their parts and master scenes that require both physical and verbal comedy. However, Shirley originally saw a different actor as the "Walter Pidgeon-type":

To my disappointment, actor Joseph Cotten had gone on suspension rather than get paired with me in Honeymoon. Far too young, he had complained. Maybe he had underestimated youth or just hadn't read the whole story. At one point the script called for me to apply jujitsu, fling him to the floor, and pounce on him for a kiss. The role went to Franchot Tone, who suffered from no such misapprehension.

Although not her first choice for David Flanner, Franchot and Shirley seemed to get along well with each other during filming, as evidenced in these candids taken on set.
Shirley and Franchot on set. Originally uploaded to Photobucket by CyndisDolls

Shirley and Franchot on set. Originally uploaded to Photobucket by CyndisDolls

Shirley and Franchot on set. Originally uploaded to Photobucket by CyndisDolls

As the grounded, concerned David Flanner, Franchot, in a mature performance sprinkled with playful slapstick, prevents the film from losing its footing and being too flighty. Honeymoon is a certain winner for those days when you're blue. The antics of Shirley's gorgeous goofball, Guy's inexperienced hero, and Franchot's stable gentleman will cheer you up, trust me. The DVD is available through Warner Archive and you can watch a scene preview from Warner on Youtube.
Shirley teaching Franchot the latest steps. Photo from my collection.

Shirley and Guy. Source:
Once you fall in love with Honeymoon, continue your "happy movie marathon" with Shirley in The Bachelor and the Bobby-soxer or Franchot in Three Loves Has Nancy or check out these suggestions from other Classic Movie Ice Cream Social bloggers!

Temple, Shirley. Child Star: An Autobiography. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988. Print.

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