A Millionaire for Christy
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Although Fred MacMurray and Eleanor Parker shared an engaging chemistry in the screwball comedy A Millionaire for Christy (1951), it was the only time they were paired onscreen. The movie came very late in the screwball cycle, following such better-remembered examples as It Happened One Night (1934), The Awful Truth (1937) and Bringing Up Baby (1938) by more than a decade. However, the plot and attitudes fall in line with the genre as it was established in the 1930s.
Beautiful but poor San Francisco legal secretary Christabel "Christy" Sloane (Parker), sent to Los Angeles to tell effusive radio host Peter Lockwood (MacMurray) that he has inherited $2 million, is inspired to woo Peter and land him as a husband before he learns he's suddenly wealthy. Her pragmatic pal Patsy (Una Merkel) encourages the idea: "For one day be a scarlet woman; the rest of your life you can be virtuous."
A minor problem is posed by the fact that Peter is about to marry another woman (Kay Buckley). But the wedding is canceled when best man Roland (Richard Carlson), a psychiatrist, fails to show. Peter takes off for La Jolla with Christy in tow, searching for his friend -- who just happens to be in love with his fiancée. On the road Peter and Christy somehow get mixed up with a band of rowdy, tequila-drinking Mexicans and end up on a mistily romantic beach together. "I feel like such a heel," she says, "spending your honeymoon with you!"
Further madcap complications include Roland's attempt to persuade Peter that Christy is insane and will commit suicide if she can't have Peter -- all in an effort to claim the intended bride as his own. It's all worked out in a boisterous ending involving the police, the media, a group of orphans, a Salvation Army band and, once again, those happy Mexicans.
A Millionaire for Christy was produced by Parker's then-husband, Bert Friedlob, and directed by George Marshall, an old hand at comedy whose credits included another slapstick MacMurray vehicle, Murder, He Says (1945).
The movie was a departure for Parker, who was best known as a serious-minded actress and had recently won her first of three Best Actress Oscar® nominations, for Caged (1950). Parker biographer Doug McClelland speculated that she may have changed her hair to "bright blonde" for the role in deference to quintessential screwball actress Carole Lombard, who had played a role markedly similar to that of Christy in Hands Across the Table (1935), opposite MacMurray.
"By this time MacMurray could play this kind of role in his sleep," wrote McClelland. "But he never dogs it, proving again that he has always been one of Hollywood's most underrated leading men."
In her column in Cosmopolitan magazine, Louella Parsons chose Parker's performance in A Millionaire for Christy as the "Best of the Month," and wrote, "The big surprise is the customarily romantic and dramatic Eleanor Parker, doing out-and-out slapstick and at the same time being entirely winsome and charming. Miss Parker, it turns out, is a delightful comedienne with an almost uncanny sense of timing."
The New York Times critic described the movie as "an infectious trifle, as harmless and palatable as a bon bon."
Producer: Bert Friedlob
Director: George Marshall
Screenplay: Ken Englund (screenplay); Robert Harari (story)
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Art Direction: Boris Leven
Music: Victor Young
Film Editing: Daniel Mandell
Cast: Fred MacMurray (Peter Ulysses Lockwood), Eleanor Parker (Christabel 'Christy' Sloane), Richard Carlson (Dr. Roland Cook), Una Merkel (Patsy Clifford), Chris-Pin Martin (Manolo, Fat Mexican), Douglass Dumbrille (J.C. Thompson), Kay Buckley (June Chandler), Raymond Greenleaf (Benjamin Chandler), Nestor Paiva (Mr. Rapello).
by Roger Fristoe