|SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS (1943)|
Dame May Whitty
|"I couldn’t hate you darling unless you turned out to be a female impersonator. And I bet you my bottom dollar that you’re not."|
|Time: 94 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
Though listed as a comedy, most viewers will be hard-pressed to find anything amusing about this picture. Except perhaps Ms. Turner’s overblown performance. She begins this ludicrous tale in the usual form an attractive young woman disgusted with her paltry position in life. Peggy Evans (Turner) is bored and sets out to fix that situation when fate steps in and gives her the opportunity she’s been looking for. After a minor accident, she pretends to have amnesia and then garners additional sympathy by claiming to be the long lost daughter of a local millionaire. It seems perpetrating fraud on an aging old man (Brennan) and his missing daughter’s governess (Whitty) won’t be easy, but Peggy’s luck holds when she passes their one surefire test. Their immediate acceptance is overwhelming to Peggy. She’s never had a family to care for her and she’s not going to lose this one, no matter who she has to pretend to be.
Just as she begins to enjoy her new life, her old one comes barging back to expose her secret. Her ex-boss, Bob Stuart (Young) is on the hook for her disappearance and needs her to return with him to prove he wasn’t responsible. Peggy tries to ignore him, but he’s fairly ingenious, causing her head to spin with all the lies she’s forced to tell to keep up with him. In an effort to buy his silence, she agrees to go back even though her “father” offers to take care of Bob. While they’re on the road, they each make grand realizations about the other, which fulminate into feelings of true love. As if this story needed more complications. Bob no longer cares about his old life as long as he can be with Peggy. For her part, Peggy finds herself willing to resume her past as long as Bob is at her side. This being a romantic comedy/fairy tale their resolve is never put to the test since Daddy is unwilling to live without his newfound “daughter”, regardless of who she really is.
Now this wacky tale could have been entertaining, instead of tedious and ridiculous, if the actors were actually let in on the joke. The only one who seems to realize that this should be a comedy is Robert Young. When he’s not onscreen, the film plays more like a soap opera with Turner turning up the tears and melodrama every chance she gets. He brings life to the party and even though his antics and facial expressions seem out place, he’s still more believable in his role than Turner is in hers. Brennan and Whitty are relegated to rather pedestrian characters that they play without any of their usual wit and pizzazz, which is wholly due to the lackluster screenplay. Their talent is completely wasted here, though their presence does manage to class up the joint regardless of how little effort is expended on their accounts.
The idea of reinventing oneself, of disappearing from your life and starting anew is an intriguing one that many of us have probably pondered, but as executed here it lacks the excitement, joy and inspiration one would expect from such an adventure. Turner is clearly out of her element as a desperate schemer, turning what could have been an empowering and clever character into a selfish, witless crybaby. She has her funny and sexy moments, but she has little chemistry with Young and not enough talent to make this ill-conceived plot enjoyable. This is a story that Carole Lombard’s light comic touch could have made sing. Unfortunately, Turner is usually at her most funny by accident. Turner’s charm, beauty and social ambitions are generally better suited to dramas. Her career is filled with hits and misses and this is definitely one to avoid.