The Model and the Marriage Broker

 

The Model and the Marriage Broker

Written by Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch & Richard Breen

Photography by Arthur E. Arling

Production Design by by Lyle Wheeler & Joseph C. Wright

Music by Cyril Mockridge

Edited by Louis R. Loeffler

Produced by Charles Brackett

Directed by George Cukor

Theatrical Release: 1952

 

Cast:

Jeanne Crain

Scott Brady

Thelma Ritter

Michael O’Shea

Zero Mostel

Helen Ford

Frank Fontaine

Dennie Moore

Jay C. Flippen

Nancy Kulp

 

Production Studio:

Theatrical: 20th Century Fox

Video: Fox Cinema Archive

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 480i

Codec: MPEG-2

Disc Type: DVD-VOD

Bit Rate: Low~Moderate (ca. 4-5 Mbps)

Runtime: 103 min

Region: 1

 

Audio:

English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono

 

Subtitles: None

 

Bonus Features: None

 

Presentation:

DVD Clamshell Case: VOD

Street Date: April 16, 2013


 

The Movie: 9

A fine film with a horrible title that suggests a fable or a light comedy, which this is not. Charles Brackett, known today because of his association with Billy Wilder (Ninotchka, Ball of Fire, Lost Weekend and Sunset Blvd.) is co-writer and producer here, with the estimable George Cukor directing. A more suitable title for a number of reasons would have been, simply, The Marriage Broker. This forgotten 1951 film has more in common with Billy Wilder’s 1960 smash hit The Apartment, with its shifts between light comedy and serious tone and subject matter, than it does with the similarly titled Brackett/Wilder 1942 farce The Major and the Minor. Remember that game of gin that Lemmon and MacLaine play during The Apartment? In The Model and the Marriage Broker the game is pinochle and so closely resembles the later film in function that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the last line in The Apartment is Wilder’s nod to Brackett.


             

 

Getting the balance between comedy and drama just right is exceedingly difficult, and only a brave man or a fool would try it. The casting here makes it all possible, which leads me to say a little more about the title – my title - and a little something about the story. The central character here is the marriage broker, played by Thelma Ritter, who gets billing under both Jeanne Crain and Scott Brady. Hollywood marketing politics being what they are, the billing is understandable, but the misdirection in the title is both unnecessary and – he said, redundantly – misleading.

 

Thelma Ritter who was 45 when she appeared, uncredited, in a small role in Miracle on 34th St., didn’t get her first important supporting role until three years later as Bette Davis’ dresser in All About Eve. Supporting roles of a similar sort, was Ritter’s forte and destiny - always cracking wise with words of wisdom, culminating in Rear Window and Daddy Long Legs, though I think it’s fair to say her performance as Moe Williams in Pickup on South Street qualifies as the number two position. So it may be that Mae Swasey is her only, or most important, leading role.


             

 

Mae Swasey describes herself as “the personal representative of a lot of people;” her office door says “Contacts and Contracts” and she makes her living on commissions from successful pairings. But her clients are much like Broadway Danny Rose’s: people with less talent and fewer options, like the too tall and homely Hazel Gingras (Nancy Kulp) and the none-too-bright Mr. Johannson (Frank Fontaine in a scene stealing performance). The relatively unknown Helen Ford as Hazel’s sister, who does the talking for her, is a hoot. As with Danny Rose, sometimes Mae’s clients are not all that ready to part with their share of the money. The movie begins with an anxious woman in black, as if she’s come from a funeral, standing in front of the Flat Iron Building like Judy Holliday at the start of Adam’s Rib (also directed by Cukor.) The woman in black goes up to Mae’s office, but can’t bring herself to go in. There’s a story here that unravels itself gradually, with a hint or two along the way as to why Mae is in this business after all. But meanwhile there are nascent couples to mate.


             

 

Matt Hornbeck (Scott Brady, always a touch of the smart-ass behind that smile), a low-paid radiologist, was on the verge of connecting when he got cold feet at the last moment, jilting his bride at the alter and Mae out of her commission, since the girl's mother was Mae’s client, unbeknownst to Matt. But Mae is every bit as committed to making happy couples as she is in making enough to live on – more I think. And so she keeps her eye out for another suitable mate for Matt. Enter: Kitty Bennet (Jeanne Crain as the grown-up girl next door) embittered by a liaison with a married man dangling her like a ball of yarn. She’s a department store model (a “mannequin” as they were once called) whose purse is accidentally swapped for Mae’s one day. And when the purses reconnect, so does Mae’s idea of joining the handsome Matt with the pretty Kitty.


             

 

Thing is, as Mae sees it, most everyone that isn’t already hitched, needs a little help from a guardian angel – someone like her, you might say - so Mae isn’t beneath a little trickery to get her clients past their natural resistance. She’s even ready to get two people connected who don’t even know that she is working pro bono, as in the case of Matt and Kitty, who have no idea that Mae is pulling strings. Kitty objects to Mae’s advice about her relationship with a married man from the get-go but things get more serious as Kitty, more brittle and more vulnerable than Matt, discovers that she’s been played. . . And then there’s that thread about Mae and why she’s doing all this that was left dangling at the start. . .

 

The Model and the Marriage Broker might have been one of those classic gems that critics like to uncover instead of just a tarnished jewel if it weren’t for its lame title and a speech that Doberman (Michael O’Shea) makes to Kitty near the end to “explain” the obvious so that everyone in the audience knows where we’re going and how we got there and what the aforementioned thread is all about. But that’s how they did things often enough back then. All the same, The Marriage Broker - with or without The Model, or the speech – is very much worth seeing.


             

 

Image: 7

Fox Cinema Archives, like Warner Archive, are not DVDs in the usual sense but burned just as we would do at home. They have no menus to speak of, only chapter advance every ten minutes. Unless “Remastered” (a term that is hard to wrap one’s mind around since it is unlikely we would have on hand the previous video version), these video discs are simply transferred “from the best materials available” and are thus entirely dependent on the condition of those sources. Fox’s leave-as-it-we-find-‘em transfer is good enough but could be better. It’s a mite soft, but serviceable and coherent, and blocks up shadow detail by way of slightly increased black levels.

 

Audio & Music: 7/8

Fox’s minimalist approach to the transfer offers clear dialogue with nicely balanced stage effects and music. The nostalgic score is credited to Cyril Mockridge (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Miracle on 34th Street, Bus Stop). His title music, which finds its way sweetly here and there in just the right doses, bears a close resemblance to Kalmar & Ruby’s 1927 ballad, Thinking of You, which was enjoying a revival thanks to the 1950 MGM film Three Little Words. I’m sure it’s just coincidence.


             

 

Extras:

None.

 

Recommendation: 8

I can’t see that The Model and the Marriage Broker is ever going to see the light of a properly remastered transfer to video, so until the day that proves me wrong, I warmly recommend this new DVD VOD from Fox. Fine performances all around, smartly casted, acted, directed and, except for one scene as noted, smartly written.



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

May 4, 2013


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