Edgar Bergen

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You Can't Cheat An Honest Man Review


OK
Poor W.C. Fields has to share screentime with an unfunny Edgar Bergen in the masterfully titled but ultimately lame You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, one of his least successful films. (At least artistically.) Bergen is given an absurd amount of time to do his tired ventriloquist act, which detracts from the only reason someone would want to watch this movie (wherein Fields plays a debt-laden circus owner who's constantly getting into trouble -- what else?). With Fields in such short supply here, it's hard to really get into the big guy's funnier set pieces, and even those often come up lame, like a bit where a woman faints if snakes are mentioned in conversation. Where's the whiskey?

The Muppet Movie Review


Excellent
Like most movies of its year, The Muppet Movie looks (and is) really dated. But it's worth it to willingly suspend disbelief at how dated it is --- to appreciate the good-natured humor and comedic flair of Jim Henson. Henson tried to entertain both kids and adults, and though both audiences were probably easier to please in the days before all comedy became irony-soaked, Henson was one of the first to add sly postmodern touches. And while the movie promotes the annoying myth of Hollywood as the dream factory, magic store, etc. it more than makes up for it by borrowing comedians from several generations, from then-new comics like Steve Martin and Elliott Gould to veterans like Bob Hope and Orson Welles(!), for an endless string of cameo appearances.

The plot loosely follows the odyssey of Kermit the Frog from his swamp home to Hollywood in search of celebrity. The desirability of fame and stardom is never questioned. The Hollywood worship becomes pretty maudlin at the end, thanks mainly to songwriter Paul Williams, whose songs are palatable at first ("Rainbow Connection" was a hit) but become too much before the end of the movie.

Continue reading: The Muppet Movie Review

I Remember Mama Review


Excellent
A sentimental but well-intentioned portrait of an immigrant family, I Remember Mama is an oddity for Hollywood -- very slow, almost entirely lacking in dramatic punch, but surprisingly realistic. Martha Hanson (Irene Dunne) is the center of a Norwegian-American family in early 20th century San Francisco. (The row houses are still standing, but no one who lives in them has to count pennies.) The story is narrated by a daughter (Barbara Bel Geddes) who worshipfully portrays her mother through her own somewhat selfish lens, but allows us to see her mother as she is: uneducated, strong, simple, forthright, and content. Like so many immigrants, Mama unsentimentally embraces her new country and raises her children as acculturated Americans, without changing herself.

The role was a stretch for Irene Dunne, usually a comedienne who teamed with Cary Grant, among others, in screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s (The Awful Truth, etc.). Unfortunately, the film signaled her retirement rather than a new beginning.

Continue reading: I Remember Mama Review

Edgar Bergen

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