Friday, May 24, 2019

Film Friday: Jeanne Crain Blogathon!

Jeanne Crain Blogathon


Thanks to Christine of Overture Books and Film for this Jeanne Crain Blogathon, and for allowing me to participate! I know I’ll enjoy reading all the different blog posts about Crain and her films. Crain is a favorite (and fellow California girl!), but I hadn’t seen The Model and the Marriage Broker, and if you haven’t seen any other movies starring Crain, I wouldn’t start with this. She gets top billing, but actually doesn’t get all that much screen time (or maybe it just felt that way?). Still, Crain is luminous and likeable, and Thelma Ritter is such fun to watch that I recommend viewing. (Top information is from the DVD case. Most links are to IMDb; photos via IMDb.)



Jeanne Crain in The Model and the Marriage Broker


“Things just can’t go right when a model/client turns the tables on her cynical, meddling marriage broker.”

Starring Jeanne Crain, Scott Brady, and Thelma Ritter
Directed by George Cukor 
1951/ 1 hour, 43 minutes/ black and white


The Model and the Marriage Broker opens with upbeat music and a sweeping cityscape, bringing us to the office of Mae Swasey “Contacts and Contracts/Notary Public.” We soon discover Mrs. Mae Swasey is a straight-talking but compassionate woman—the marriage broker of the title. She says in a sardonic tone to a client, “I can hear the wedding bells already.” Mae is going about a usual sort of day, talking to clients, and visiting them, arranging meetings at her home, or otherwise. One such visit leads to an accidental handbag switch with model Kitty Bennett, played by the ever lovely Jeanne Crain. We don’t meet Kitty until about ten minutes (or more) into the movie, and even then, we only get a partial glimpse in a fabulous hat and dress (costumes in this movie are by Renie, who had a long career--I love Kitty's dresses in this movie). Also in the mix is Matt Hornbeck, radiologist, who becomes unwittingly involved in Mae’s business when some wealthy clients stiff Mae on her fee. Soon, hard-luck Mae is (kindly) meddling in Kitty’s and Matt’s lives, and complications ensue. There are some funny bits, as well as touching ones, and Crain’s presence and moments of thoughtful sadness are a good foil for Ritter’s almost cynical warmth, and candidness. The film lives up to its title, and really is about these two strong women and their relationship. The film ends with Mae, as well, and it’s a bit surprising, in a way, because though Crain gets top billing, The Model and the Marriage Broker is really Ritter’s star turn.


The film, directed by George Cukor (one of my favorite directors), is a solid slice of life comedic drama, but it doesn’t have the sublime pacing and excellent scripting of his other films, like The Women, Pat and Mike, and Adam’s Rib. There are some laugh-out-loud moments with some of Mae’s clients, played most notably by Zero Mostel and Nancy Culp. However, I didn’t connect to Scott Brady’s Matt Hornbeck; I wished that Cukor had discovered Aldo Ray a year early, because this could have been Ray’s breakout role. I feel he would’ve brought more likeability and gleam to the role than Brady, and perhaps had better chemistry with Crain as well, though we really don’t see a lot of the Bennett-Hornbeck romance on-screen. Maybe I was expecting more romance (a la Pat and Mike), when really it’s the tale of these two women, played perfectly by Ritter and Crain. I recommend the film, though perhaps not as a first viewing of the fantastic Jeanne Crain.

Have you seen The Model and the Marriage Broker? What are your thoughts? What’s your favorite Jeanne Crain film?

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