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Starring Dorothy Lamour
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,Slightly French

Slighty French

Slightly French (1949) finds Don Ameche as John Gayle, a movie director who loses his star (Adele Jergens), and then his job, because of his on-set tirades and slave-driving methods. Visiting a carnival, Gayle notices a performer named Mary O'Leary (Dorothy Lamour) and is impressed; he takes her under his wing and grooms her into a lady, Pygmalion-style, teaching her to walk, talk and sing like a French chanteuse so that he can pass her off to the studio as a newly discovered French starlet named Rochelle Olivia. His plan is for the studio to be bowled over by her, hire her for the film, and take him back as director. Of course it works -- until comic complications ensue.

Slightly French is a remake of Let's Fall in Love (1933), which starred Ann Sothern, Edmund Lowe and Gregory Ratoff and which can also occasionally be seen on TCM. Even in 1933, however, the Pygmalion-style plot was an old warhorse. George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion was written in 1912, and numerous movies and television shows have borrowed its plot and theme ever since, and for good reason: it's a proven audience winner.

This take on the story ended up as a light, airy comedy with four songs from Dorothy Lamour and directing duties by Douglas Sirk, taking a break from his recent films noirs and still a few years away from the Universal melodramas that would make him renowned.

In her memoir My Side of the Road, Lamour later joked that this was her "no way to treat a lady" period: "In Slightly French, I [was] pushed down a flight of stairs; in my [next] film [Manhandled (1949)], I was to be smacked around by Dan Duryea, who then tries to push me off a rooftop."

Due to the quirks of release schedules, Manhandled actually opened in New York one day before Slightly French. The New York Times' critic Thomas M. Pryor mused, "someone should have thought about proclaiming this as Dorothy Lamour Week on Broadway." Of her turn in Slightly French, he wrote, "Miss Lamour makes a brief appearance in a bathing suit, sings several songs and is altogether more like her old self. And she's much the better off for it in Slightly French than she is in Manhandled."

Lamour's career, however, was on a downward trajectory. A few more features would come her way, including her final "Road" picture, 1952's Road to Bali (she only had a cameo appearance in The Road to Hong Kong, the last official "Road" picture in 1962). For the most part she'd turn up just in occasional television guest roles over the next forty years.

Douglas Sirk, interviewed years later, remembered nothing of this picture, one of two he directed for Columbia in 1949. The other was Shockproof.

Producer: Irving Starr
Director: Douglas Sirk
Screenplay: Karen DeWolf (screenplay); Herbert Fields (story)
Cinematography: Charles Lawton, Jr.
Art Direction: Carl Anderson
Music: George Duning
Film Editing: Al Clark
Cast: Dorothy Lamour (Mary O'Leary aka Rochelle Olivia), Don Ameche (John Gayle), Janis Carter (Louisa Gayle), Willard Parker (Douglas Hyde), Adele Jergens (Yvonne La Tour), Jeanne Manet (Nicolette).
BW-81m.

by Jeremy Arnold

VIEW TCMDb ENTRY

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