There's a grand publicity stunt to be held at the Savory Department Store today, as the owner Whitfield Savory II (Tom Conway) has bought a highly expensive ancient statue of the goddess Venus and plans to put it on display to bring in the customers. One of the staff working on this is Eddie Hatch (Robert Walker), who is in a fairly lowly position making sure the displays are all in tip top shape so when he hears he has been sent for by Mr Savory he allows his imagination to run away with him and tells his girlfriend Gloria (Olga San Juan) this means he is obviously set for important things...
Which he is, but not in the manner he expected, for he is about to bring that statue to life in this, the movie version of the hit musical. Except they seemed reluctant to fully commit to the whole actors breaking out into song aspect of the style, so by the time it reached the screen there were only three tunes left. Considering those tunes were written by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Ogden Nash, there have been many viewers who were also fans of musicals who felt let down by this adaptation, especially as there was plenty of room for singing in the end result, having been cut down to around eighty minutes in length.
For what it was, and for those who were not so bothered about what could have been and were more concerned with what reached the audience, One Touch of Venus had more charms than its somewhat muted reputation might have indicated, containing a sizeable degree of that old time movie magic than something hailing from later decades might have had with the same premise. Take for example, to pluck a name from the air entirely at random, the eighties cheesefest Mannequin - of course, that was a loose remake of this for which Weill was replaced with Starship belting out Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now; it would be interesting to compare the two and how they endeavoured to keep things light and fun.
In their own decade's approach, that was, with the forties work coming across as somehow more romantic than the one from its future, not least because the throwaway Mannequin had a cutesy Kim Cattrall and this had a glamorous Ava Gardner as the animated statue, who is brought to life with a kiss from Eddie. She decides she is here to fall in love with him, and cannot quite understand why this alarms him so much, but then he does have the tempestuous Gloria to contend with - he doesn't wish to make her angry (though he does anyway), and besides, how is he going to explain the lack of statue to his boss, who is convinced the artwork has been stolen and Eddie is the culprit.
Plots like these have in the best screwball sense a way of solving themselves and tying all their wild threads together, and so it is here, with Venus's mere presence in New York the cause of much falling in love around the city. Although Mr Savory gets one look at her and is attracted in a manner the more timid Eddie is not, he should really be paying attention to his devoted but sardonic secretary Molly, played by the scene-stealing Eve Arden as she fires off the lion's share of wisecracks and laments her lot as being taken for granted by the one man who could make her happy. For our hero, in a credits list full of interesting names, perhaps the most significant among the writers was Frank Tashlin, making the transition from cartoons to live action movies: the sexually aggressive female pursuing the meek protagonist who doesn't accept she's the best thing to happen to him was very much in his style. As the story draws to a close, it threatens to be a sad finale for Eddie with the Gods intervening, but keep watching to go "Aah..."