04 July 2008

Roz is wonderful. Movie is Wacky. Puzzle a Doozy.

It's a sure sign that the movie you're watching is either not very good or not to your liking if you start working on the crossword puzzle while watching it.

Such was the case for me earlier in the day when I watched My Sister Eileen. Rosalind Russell starred in this 1942 film from Paramount and was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of an aspiring writer from Columbus, Ohio who heads to New York with her (of course) sister Eileen, an aspiring actress. Both seek fame and fortune. Hilarity ensues with a diverse ensemble of actors showing up to add to the madcap mayhem. Even the Three Stooges make an appearance (that's class).

I suppose it says a lot about the film that I was able to follow the story, as zany as it was, without paying a whole lot of attention. According to TCM's host Robert Osborne, My Sister Eileen was a big hit in 1942. I guess compared to the news from the war zones anything would have seemed fun.

The lovely Janet Blair played Eileen. Her main task was to look pretty and this she accomplished quite..um, handsomely. Blair either was asked to do little else with her role or was not capable of doing more with it. Most of the movie is set in their below-ground-floor Greenwich Village apartment. Their landlord is played by George Tobias (perhaps best known to Baby Boomers as Abner Kravitz from TV's Bewitched). In this movie, Tobias played a Greek. He was all over the place in movies of the 1940's playing all manner of nationals including Russians and Italians. In addition to Tobias and the Stooges, a whole of host zanies pass through the apartment including a medium, a football player, an assortment of mashers, and a half dozen Portuguese sailors, naturally.

My Sister Eileen was subsequently remade in a few forms, one of which was a hit Broadway play in which Russell reprised her role.

Like many star actresses of her era. I love Russell. Like many of my favorites, she was very pretty yet also played very capable, very smart women. No better example exists than her performance as Hildy in His Girl Friday.

As uninteresting as I found My Sister Eileen, Russell was customarily wonderfully. The movie was not and that crossword puzzle was a doozy.

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