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  Slightly Dangerous Blonde Ambition
Year: 1943
Director: Wesley Ruggles
Stars: Lana Turner, Robert Young, Walter Brennan, Dame May Whitty, Eugene Pallette, Alan Mowbray, Florence Bates, Howard Freeman, Millard Mitchell, Ward Bond, Pamela Blake, Ray Collins, Emory Parnell
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Drugstore worker Peggy Evans (Lana Turner) is sick of her monotonous job. After clashing with her fastidious boss Bob Stuart (Robert Young), she grabs her life's savings and flees to New York City in search of a new identity. Fate lends an unexpected hand when a series of outlandish events lead to Peggy attempting to pass herself off as the long-lost amnesia-riddled daughter of millionaire Cornelius Burden (Walter Brennan). Meanwhile, Peggy's abrupt disappearance has many believing poor, hapless Bob drove her to suicide. Determined to clear his good name, Bob trails his former employee to New York, looking to expose her as a fraud.

A screwball Cinderella story with a twist, Slightly Dangerous was a charming comedy vehicle for MGM's most glamorous real-life drugstore discovery Lana Turner. While Turner remains cemented in the public imagination primarily as one of the all-time greatest femmes fatale in film noir classics like Johnny Eager (1941) and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) or else in melodramas from Peyton Place (1957) to Imitation of Life (1959), Slightly Dangerous shows she was also a damn fine comedienne. Indeed she is hysterically funny. The film is worth savouring for Lana's ingratiating internal monologues alone. These not only involve viewers in Peggy's plight but also establish her as a comic anti-heroine of admirable intelligence and guile. Much like Lana's femme fatale characters, Peggy is a little devious. Shrewd enough to shift a situation to her advantage or use her devastating beauty to manipulate men. It goes without saying Lana looks luminous throughout. Yet both script and star endeavour to ensure she remains sympathetic.

Co-writers Charles Lederer, one of the chief architects of 'screwball comedy' (he later turned director), and George Oppenheimer, establish Peggy as a feisty young woman who initially balks at the thought of being constrained either by a dull job or marriage. Her co-workers are more content to endure the daily grind in the hope their job will lead them to find their 'Johnny': i.e. a big strong man to sweep them away to a life of domesticity and security. For Peggy that simply is not good enough. She ends up using her wits to reinvent herself as a media sensation and thus pursue a plethora of more exciting opportunities. Released in theaters at a time when women were doing their bit for the war effort by making up two thirds of the work force these themes likely resonated with a huge segment of the public discovering they wanted more out of life than being mothers and housewives. Once Peggy is ensconced in high society the film takes a moving twist as she discovers the loving family she never realized she wanted with Brennan's crusty but devoted dad and Dame May Whitty's scatterbrained nanny, and starts to feel guilty.

Unfortunately the third act loses sight of the core themes and flips the script leading to a slightly more conservative moral. Nonetheless Robert Young makes a delightfully flustered foil to Lana's feisty fraudster and the film bows out with a pleasingly unconventional happy ending. Wesley Ruggles, younger brother of prolific comedy character actor Charlie Ruggles and a dab hand at light comedy, maintains the fast pace and wisecracking cartoon tone that were the hallmarks of screwball farce. A few of the slapstick set-pieces feel rather contrived, including the sequence with Robert Young dangling from a balcony at the opera. Others however are entirely delightful like the dance sequence at the diner. Interestingly the film's standout sequence, wherein Peggy dons a blindfold to assemble an elaborate ice cream sundae that looks almost as delicious as Lana Turner, was supposedly directed by silent screen legend Buster Keaton.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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