Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Hucksters (1947)

“You'll say anything to win your point, won't you? Make any promise?”
“That's the kind of guy I am. I haven't kidded you about that.” 

            I have issues with films where the cast has some very good actors and they are completely wasted with the story. The Hucksters start off as a good story and like so many films takes a turn- just a turn but not a god awful turn- and cannot pick itself up and wastes its great cast.
            Victor Norman (Clark Gable) has just returned home to New York City from serving in the war. He is an advertising man and wants to go back into the business but on his own terms. He says he wants to look honest but at the same time he wants to look like he does not need the job. Victor goes to a man named Mr. Kimberley (Adolphe Menjou) who runs his own advertising firm to see if he can get a job there. When Victor arrives at Kimberley’s office, Kimberley gets a call from Evan Llewllyn Evans (Sidney Greenstreet) the owner of a soap company. Evans is a client of Kimberley’s he is a nasty man who wants everything his way and wants everyone to bow down to his whim. Essentially he has everyone fear him. Unfortunately he is Kimberley’s biggest client and does not want to let him go. The two men go to a meeting Evans has called. Victor is the only one in the room not to do what the other men do to suck up to Evans, he sees right through the man and thinks he is fool.
            The whole office has been working on a campaign for Evans’s latest soap. No one can come up with a good idea and they need endorsements from respectable women quickly. Norman has not even been hired but he works for Kimberley. He puts together a new radio ad by using his singer friend Jean Ogilvie (Ava Gardner) that comes out much better than anyone else has come up with. Next he sees a list women who are from charity leagues. Victors sees the name of and English woman named Kay Dorrance (Deborah Kerr) living in the city whose husband is an American war hero who died in action. He decides to pay the widow a visit and ask her to sponsor the project. As soon as Victor meets Kay he is immediately drawn to her, she is a very proper, sweet lady and is also strong. He offers her five thousand dollars so she can take care of her two small children.
            The next day Kay arrives with her children for a photo shoot for the soap. She feels very uncomfortable when she learns she has to put on a revealing nightgown and pose as if she is getting ready for a bath. Victor helps her out by doing a different kind of shoot and one that includes her children. The whole office is in an uproar over the photographs because they are not what Evans wanted. At a meeting Evans does not complain about the photos and he likes Victor’s recording for the radio spot. Victor takes Kay over to Kimberley’s place for dinner even though Kimberley never told his wife they were having company. Kimberley decides to go out to the place where Jean is the singer. On their way home, Victor does not want his night with Kay to end so he takes her up to the beach where they watch the sunrise. While on the beach Victor tells Kay about a nice hotel he went up to in Connecticut and would like to take her there. They make plans to go that weekend.
            The plans for the nice weekend fall apart as soon as Victor arrives at the hotel. The hotel once nice and happy is now under new ownership and it is falling apart and shady. When Kay arrives she does not like the look of the place and thinks Victor is pulling something not to her liking and leaves. Victor is crushed and upset thinking that Kay never showed up and cannot think of any reason why she would not have.
            When Victor gets back to the city Evans wants to hold a meeting at two in the morning. He wants a comedian for his sponsored radio program and he wants Victor to go get him from California. Victor goes and he meets Jean along the way, she is going out to California for a screen test. Victor sees the comedian’s agent to make a deal. He takes some jabs about the agent’s home town and he feels terrible for having done so, he feels he has no integrity left. Just when he is at his worst Kay comes out to California to see him because she misses him terribly.
            Victor gives Evans what he wants and tells the nasty man what he really thinks of him. Victor does not take the job after what he said to the agent. Kay has come in the middle of the night to pick Victor up. They drive for a while until they hit a marketplace. Victor wants to marry Kay but tells her he does not have the money he wants to have money before he asks her because he wants to be able to take care of her and her children. Kay tells him money does not matter she loves him anyway and that they will get by.
            Clark Gable was so good. His character was a gentleman and because of him having to be a gentleman in a way made him attractive (I have never thought Gable was a good looking man even when he was young). What I really like was that he was not playing a macho guy who was stone at the beginning of the film and turned soft with the help of a lady. He was already a nice honest man who stayed humble throughout the film. Deborah Kerr was so pretty and so talented. I have not seen many of her films and after seeing this I cannot wait to see more. Ava Gardner from the moment she walks into the film steels her scenes. Kerr said Gardner almost stole the film from her- I have to disagree Gardner did steel the film from her. Gardner was twenty-five years old she was young and fresh and adorable. She had yet to be tired of being an actress and not really trying in her films she was excellent in her scenes. There was a definite chemistry between Gardner and Gable that you can feel drip from the screen. I have yet to see them in Mogambo and do not know the plot to it but if they are in scenes together and are supposed to like each other I hope their chemistry is just as good in that as it was here. Adolphe Menjou is one of several actors I always like to see in films be he a bad guy or a smooth talker he was just great. Sidney Greenstreet I have always found to be sloppy, he is not in appearance or with his acting I just find him so odd and so big that he seems sloppy to me. His character was so nasty he is revolting.
            The Hucksters lacks in story. Its plot is not that great and it gets a boring in the middle. You know that Victor and Kay are going to get together that the stuff in the middle is a bit much. As I said at the beginning that cast is great but they are wasted by a not too great plot. The story/plot is not terrible where I would not recommend it to people it just has a weakness that unfortunately makes it hard to sit through. The Hucksters is a film I would recommend seeing if you like the cast members.