April is for celebrating the fools of filmland. Each Friday this month, we will examine a vintage comedy. Rodney and Samantha kick off this series with Fun on a Weekend.
RODNEY: Fun on a Weekend tells the tale of Pete Porter (Eddie Bracken) and Nancy Crane (Priscilla Lane), two destitute young people who unknowingly wake up after spending the night on the beach together (scandalous…if only they’d known it). They quickly develop a theory that with positive thinking and some luck, they can talk their way into riches and pledge to spend the night in a luxurious suite by nightfall (separate bedrooms, naturally. Get your mind out of the gutter). What follows is a light and breezy parade of silly circumstances, peppered with a supporting cast full of the character actors that readers of this blog are doubtlessly going to know and love.
SAMANTHA: I would have enjoyed the movie if Bracken and Lane were the only faces I recognized, but the other familiar faces enhanced the experience all the more. And the movie is all the better for the fact that all of the actors are allowed to be funny. There aren't any straight men. Allen Jenkins's mounting frustration over the antics of Bracken and Lane cause him to burst at the wrong guy over the cold coffee, and his puzzlement at their odd behavior and the fact that it produces results bookends the movie. Proper Arthur Treacher makes an unlikely appearance in swim trunks and a pith helmet. Fritz Feld is wonderful as the harried pianist struggling to play "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5" as he believes he is being taunted from the audience.
R: When speaking about this film, Robert Osborne summed it up well, calling it a cotton-candy film that was really the opposite of the kind of films being released in 1947, such as Born to Kill. I agree that the film is a change of pace, harkening back to late 30’s screwball comedies and I really enjoyed it.
S: It is mostly fun, and lots of it, but there are some sly social commentaries on the rich elite thrown in, like how other people who appear to be rich are also secretly broke and unable to pay their debts, or that people build monstrously ostentatious homes to show off their wealth even though the buildings are a money pit.
R: Bracken and Lane are always very good and have great chemistry here. The supporting cast is also really strong, featuring performances by Tom Conway and Allen Jenkins (of The Falcon films), Arthur Treacher, Billy Benedict and an all-time favorite in our house, Byron Foulger.
S: Bracken is the perfect non-threatening protagonist. We relate to him and immediately root for him. His comic instincts are wonderful, and his rubber-bodied physicality gives us hilarious scenes like the one where he's in a two-against-one struggle to retain his pants. "He's a weird little man dressed in bathing trunks." In addition to the wonderful actors, the approach to the story is a lot of fun. There is a lot going on at all times, and the style reminds me of some of the great comedies in the silent era, where a prop or a funny gag become the basis of an entire sequence. Take the scene with the paper spike you see in old newspaper movies. Or the scene in the car with the dog bones. It is fun for the sake of fun.
"We're going in to business together and these clothes would only interfere."
R: I really enjoyed this film a lot and found myself wondering why it’s practically unknown today, and I don’t have an answer to explain that. Is it a forgotten classic? Probably not. Is it a fun movie with a great cast and good chemistry between the leads? Absolutely. There are a lot of movies in this genre that are held in higher regard than this one, and I would wager that this is just as good as many of them.
S: I agree. My guess is that because this was made by an independent production company, Andrew L. Stone Productions, it slipped through the cracks of time. Stone wrote and directed the film, as he did with several others like Hi Diddle Diddle, The Bachelor's Daughters and Cry Terror!. Cinematography in Fun on a Weekend is by Paul Ivano whose long career began in the silent era. He worked with major directors known for their opulent touch like Frank Borzage on Street Angel and Erich von Stroheim on the doomed Queen Kelly.
R: I thoroughly enjoyed the only pairing between Eddie Bracken and Priscilla Lane, and I wish that they had the opportunity to pair together again. Unfortunately, both of their stars were falling when this film was made (it’s the second to last theatrical role for Priscilla Lane; Bracken didn’t have too many more after this either, although he did lots of theater and TV, even an appearance on a genuinely great early-2000’s NBC drama called Ed).
S: I delight every Christmas in seeing Bracken as the sweet old toy store owner in Home Alone 2. It it interesting how many women decided to forego a promising career in favor of raising a family. Lane did just that; she married Joseph Howard in 1942 and they had their first of four children in 1945. She only made two films after her son was born, this one and Bodyguard in 1948. I can't say I blame her. It would be difficult to feel that someone else was raising your children, and the studios didn't offer much in the way of free time. Lots of actresses with promising careers after a few memorable roles opted to give up the spotlight in favor of having a family: Peggy Dow, Joyce Reynolds, and Jean Porter also come to mind. Priscilla is my favorite of the Lane sisters and she made the most memorable movies overall, so she didn't do too badly for having such a short career.
R: At the end of the day, I’m going to go three and a half stars for this one. It’s a lot of fun as long as you don’t expect a film to challenge your intelligence. It’s a delightful way to spend an hour and a half with Bracken and Lane.
S: I don't laugh out loud very often when I watch movies, but this one provoked several audible responses from me. Four stars.