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MGM tried to bring back the screwball comedy with the 1952 confection You for Me, the story of a nurse (Jane Greer) torn between the all-business doctor she loves (Gig Young) and the playboy philanthropist (Peter Lawford) she has to romance to keep her job. But instead of allowing this surprisingly adult picture to build the more discerning audience it needed, they rushed it out as the bottom half of double bills aimed at younger audiences. Little wonder that despite strong reviews labeling it "An engaging 70 minutes...designed to brighten many a dual bill" (Variety) it quickly sank out of sight.
The film's limited success was particularly troublesome to star Greer, who had counted on the picture and her move to MGM to elevate her to star status. Greer had gotten her start as one of eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes's protges and had even dated him for a while. She moved on to a contract at RKO Pictures, where she established a niche as a femme fatale in such classic films noirs as Out of the Past (1947) and The Big Steal (1949). But when Hughes bought the studio, her refusal to rekindle their relationship (by this time she was a wife and mother) resulted in his sabotaging her career. She was frequently absent from the screen, with the few pictures assigned her pale imitations of Out of the Past. As she would later say, "I didn't want my sons to have to grow up, and when someone asked what their mother did, to have to reply, 'Oh Mom's a gun moll.'" So she bought her way out of her RKO contract.
By this time, Greer's original RKO boss, Dore Schary, was head of production at MGM. He brought her over for a short-term contract, but then did little with her. She had hoped for a shot at playing Lina Lamont, the temperamental silent screen star in Singin' in the Rain (1952), but the studio wouldn't even test her for the role, which went to Jean Hagen instead. They highlighted her performance in You for Me with advertising, hailing her as "...a little bit of Eve, a little bit of Delilah - and a gal who just can't say 'no,'" but all the advertising in the world won't help a film that audiences can't or won't find. Of her four MGM films, only one, The Prisoner of Zenda (1952), was a big-budget box-office hit. The others were so minor she eventually negotiated an early end to her contract.
Greer wasn't the only one hurt by You for Me's failure. Leading man Peter Lawford had seen his studio status slip since he came to stardom as a teen idol just after World War II. Eventually, he would be among the many contract players dropped by MGM in the mid-'50s in response to declining box office and the competition of television. Gig Young was at a career high when he signed with MGM, having just won an Oscar® nomination for his performance as an alcoholic composer rehabilitated by James Cagney in Come Fill the Cup (1951). The move to MGM seemed a step in the right direction, but when his wife was diagnosed with cervical cancer, mounting medical bills prevented him from holding out for better films. Failures like You for Me destroyed his career momentum until a second Oscar® nomination, for Teacher's Pet (1958), helped him land more romantic comedy roles.
The one person to profit from his work on You for Me was director Don Weis, who had moved to directing after work as a script supervisor. When Ida Lupino announced that she had signed him to direct films for her production company, MGM lured him away with a contract of their own and put him to work on lightweight fare, which would turn out to be his specialty. Although some critics would complain that his films were so inconsequential they sometimes seemed to float right off the screen, his pacing and delicate touch helped him make some of the clichs in You for Me seem fresh and original. He would follow the film with three minor hits -- the musicals I Love Melvin and The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (both 1953) and the Arabian Nights tale The Adventures of Hajji Baba (1954) -- that would make him a cult favorite in France. There, he would be one of the first directors hailed as an auteur by the new generation of critics headed by Francois Truffaut and Jean Luc Godard.
Producer: Henry Berman
Director: Don Weis
Screenplay: William Roberts
Cinematography: Paul C. Vogel
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Eddie Imazu
Music: Alberto Colombo
Cast: Peter Lawford (Tony Brown), Jane Greer (Katie McDermad), Gig Young (Dr. Jeff Chadwick), Rita Corday (Lucille Brown), Howard Wendell (Oliver Wherry), Barbara Ruick (Ann Elcott), Kathryn Card (Nurse Vogel), Tommy Farrell (Rollie Cobb), Elaine Stewart (Girl in Club Car), Alvy Moore (Friend), Julia Dean (Aunt Clara).
by Frank Miller