Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Crystal Ball (1943)


“You’ve been turned down by a man.”
“Just one man? How about nine?”

            The Crystal Ball starring Paulette Goddard and Ray Milland  offers a different spin to the old story of a woman, who upon first sight, gains a huge crush on a man and will do anything to pursue him and win his love.
            Toni Gerard (Goddard) has come to New York from Texas to try out for a beauty contest but lost: “… if you saw the blonde she bombed from a low altitude.” Now she is in NYC with no job and thirty-eight cents to her name. Toni goes to a psychic named Madame Zenobia. The gracious psychic after hearing how well Toni can shoot offers her a place to stay and a job next door at a shooting game booth next door where she will be a decoy to get people to come and play.
            While at the stand one day Toni sees a handsome man with a woman friend get out of a nice car. The woman, Jo Ainsley, has come to Madame Zenobia at the suggestion of her maid (who so happens to be friends with Zenobia) to help her locate an emerald ring. All Toni can do is stand and stare with a goofy grin on her face at the man. To make the man more appealing he can shoot really well. His name is Brad Cavanaugh and he is Mrs. Ainsley’s attorney.
            Madame Zenobia falls and hurts her back. The following night she is supposed give readings at a party but she cannot go so she has Toni be the psychic. Zenobia has Toni find out about the people who will be there and go to interview them so she can tell their “fortunes” at the party.  Toni finds out from Brad’s chauffer and friend Biff that his employer has a heart shaped buck shot scar. At the party she covers her face with the veil of her costume and puts on an Indian (Native American) accent and gives her name as “Big Injun”. She gives each person their fortunes according to what she was able to find out. Brad does not believe in psychics but decides to receive his fortune and is astonished when Toni tells him about his scar.  Zenobia has Toni tell Brad about a parcel of land in which the government is planning to build a defense plant on. Zenobia is looking to make money off of Jo by telling her this but will later get everyone into trouble.
            Toni has her own fortune for Brad: he will eventually meet a red headed woman eating an apple.
            The next day Brad gets a call from a restaurant saying they are having an issue with a woman who claims to have found something in her soup and is threatening to sue the place and wants his help. The woman turns out to be Toni and the red headed woman who is eating an apple.
            Brad and Toni get along fantastically and begin to fall in love. Many comical scenes abound as the two become clumsy in love. Their relationship is threatened when the government investigates Brad for buying the land and Toni sees that Madame Zenobia is not the woman she thought she was.
            I cannot begin to say how much I adored Paulette Goddard in this film. From beginning to end she was just fabulous. I cracked up at the beginning when Toni says to Madame Zenobia “I entered a beauty contest…” and then flashes this hysterical phony smile. I can’t even tell you why I found that part so hilarious but I did and laugh just thinking about it. What I adore so much about Goddard is that she could be funny or she could be serious and not over act. Her comedy throughout The Crystal Ball was never over the top it was just perfect it was subtle and light. In the films I have seen Goddard in she just always seemed to enjoy being silly and it shows.
            Before this film I had only ever seen Ray Milland as the villain (if that is the correct term) in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder and I really did not think anything of him to me he was alright. I found myself enjoying Milland in this film. He was also very good comically.
            William Bendix as Biff and Cecil Kellaway as Pop the owner of the shooting game booth also offer up some comedic gems.
            I have to comment on the clothes Toni wore throughout the film: she was supposed to not have that much money yet she had a fantastic wardrobe! Edith Head and Adrian provided the costume for the film. If you follow movie costume designers you can tell right away in the suits Paulette Goddard wore that they were designed by Edith Head.
            The Crystal Ball is a very funny film. This was one of four films Paramount paired Paulette Goddard and Ray Milland. They were very good together here you can see they had  good screen chemistry.
            TCM recently aired The Crystal Ball and as of right now this is the only way I was able to view it. If TCM airs the film again I highly suggest seeing it for some good laughs and fabulous acting.