The Doughgirls (1944) – reviewed by George

I love old movies. But even the most crazed devotees (I am one) have to admit that they don’t all work. Musicals are almost always effective, especially the ones where the girl uses a song to pine for the boy: Jeanne Crain singing “It Might As Well be Spring” from “State Fair”, or Judy Garland singing “The Boy Next Door” from “Meet Me in St. Louis”.
The best old dramas are usually the ones that were period pieces when they were made. And the old films most likely to disappoint are the comedies. They frequently deal with situations so tied to their time that I grow restless and want somebody, anybody, to jump up and use some logic. And yes, film is not a logical medium. But please! “Ali Baba Goes to Town” pokes fun at the New Deal, and is funny. Can’t say that about “The Doughgirls”.
This is a farce set during the housing crisis that took place in D.C. during the Second World War. Jack Carson is on his way to Washington with his new bride Jane Wyman. They have just been married in Pottsville, Maryland, and they describe the minister as 6′ 5″, with the face of a mobster. When they get to the hotel where they have reservations, the rumor starts that someone is checking out, and a riot results. Since the original property was a stage play, this is totally Hollywood showboating. And so overdone that any possible humor is killed.
Upstairs they find Ann Sheridan in possession and refusing to move out. Her husband John Ridgely lives there too, of course. Well, their reservations have come to an end, and a simple call to the hotel manager would get rid of her, but Jack has gone on to meet his new boss Charlie Ruggles, leaving Jane to deal with it, and Jane is playing (very well) a complete ditz, who also knew Ann from their old days as chorus girls. Then Alexis Smith shows up, also a former pal from the chorus, and her husband Craig Stevens is about to be shipped to the Asian part of the war, so who could possibly tell them to leave? And somehow Eve Arden (who steals the movie) shows up as Sergeant Natalia Moskoroff of the Russian Army and she moves in too.
Jack won’t live there until Jane gets rid of everybody, so their marriage remains unconsummated.
And then it turns out that in actuality nobody is married. The Pottsville minister was tied and gagged in the closet while the robber was pretending to be him and marrying Jack and Jane; John’s first wife Irene Manning never signed the divorce papers; and who remembers what was wrong with Alexis and Craig? Not I!
And there are all sorts or artificial stumbling blocks. The girls agree to help care for the babies of women working in the war effort, and the society matron, Barbara Brown, who is running the program tells them an FBI check is mandatory, and they fear the FBI guy, Regis Toomey, finding out their marital status is fictional. And of course at the worst time a passel of babies is delivered to the hotel room. And Alan Mowbray shows up from time to time to do his radio show from the suite?!
I should have just relaxed and let it roll over me, but the lack of gumption (and the lack of sense) upset me mightily. I sometimes say that the movie I’m reviewing is not bad, it just isn’t good. Well, sorry, folks. When Eve Arden isn’t on screen, this one is bad. And just silly.
Okay, there are a few good lines. Jane can’t get it straight that Jack works for the Administrator of Intra-Bureau Coordination. She says, “Why didn’t you join something easy, like the Senate, or the Supreme Courthouse?”
Screen Play by James V. Kern and Sam Hellman, From the Stage Play by Joseph Fields, Directed by James V. Kern.

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