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In mid-1945, Lucille Ball finished work on MGM's Easy to Wed (1946), in which she gave one of her more memorable comic turns. It wasn't enough, however, to convince the studio that she would ever transition from actress to full-fledged star. With Ball's contract approaching expiration, MGM offered to renew it at a decreased salary; she refused. After a loanout to Fox (The Dark Corner, 1946) and one more MGM picture, Ball was released from the studio.
That final MGM picture was Two Smart People (1946), a comedy-drama. John Hodiak plays a swindler who, about to be sent to prison, embarks on a cross-country trip with the sole purpose of eating enough gourmet food to compensate for the prison grub to which he will soon be subjected. Since he alone also knows the location of a stolen half-million dollars, fellow con artist Lucille Ball and cop Lloyd Nolan tag along.
Ball was not thrilled with this assignment, later describing the movie as "a real dog" and quoting The New York Times review which said, "[Ball] is painfully defeated by the script at every turn." The actress took her MGM severance hard. "I was terribly depressed," she wrote in her memoir. "Life seemed unbearable. Desi [Arnaz] was away rounding up a new band, so I sat home alone and cried." Soon enough, however, Ball got a new agent who helped get her career back on track with a movie at Universal, Lover Come Back (1946).
Two Smart People was directed by Jules Dassin, showing virtually none of the innovation he would soon bring to classics like Brute Force (1947), Thieves' Highway (1949), Night and the City (1950) and Rififi (1955).
Look for Shelley Winters in a bit role, and also for Hugo Haas in the role of Senor Rodriguez. Haas was a popular Czech actor and burgeoning writer-director who came to Hollywood in the late 1930s, where he found a career as a supporting player. In the 1950s he became an independent filmmaker - writing, producing and directing a number of cheap, lurid crime dramas like Pickup (1951) and Bait (1954).
Producer: Ralph Wheelwright
Director: Jules Dassin
Screenplay: Leslie Charteris, Ethel Hill, Allan Kenward (story), Ralph Wheelwright (story)
Cinematography: Karl Freund
Film Editing: Chester W. Schaeffer
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Wade Rubottom
Music: George Bassman
Cast: Lucille Ball (Ricki Woodner), John Hodiak (Ace Connors), Lloyd Nolan (Bob Simms), Hugo Haas (Senor Rodriquez), Lenore Ulric (Marie Ynez), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Fly Feletti).
by Jeremy Arnold