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  Tom, Dick and Harry Choose Me
Year: 1941
Director: Garson Kanin
Stars: Ginger Rogers, George Murphy, Alan Marshal, Burgess Meredith, Joe Cunningham, Jane Seymour, Lenore Lonergan, Vickie Lester, Phil Silvers, Betty Breckenridge
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: Janie (Ginger Rogers) is at the movies with her boyfriend Tom (George Murphy) and she is enraptured by what she's seeing on the screen, even though she's watched it many times before, and recently, too. The plot is about a rich man and a poor woman who fall in love, and she wonders aloud to Tom in the cafe afterwards if such a thing could happen in real life. He isn't really interested and wants to steer the conversation back to himself, so takes Janie out to the local lover's lane where he has an important question to ask: will she marry him?

There was a time when this unassuming little comedy was considered a modern classic, but time was not kind to it and it dropped off the radar fairly quickly, perhaps due to its screenwriter Paul Jarrico being blacklisted as a communist about ten years after its release. Whatever the reason, Tom, Dick and Harry is not the type of film that often comes up when the greats of the forties, or indeed the Golden Age, are discussed such was its low profile from the fifties onwards. But if it isn't raised to the heights of acclaim, then at least it enjoys a cult status among those who caught its rare appearances over the years since.

And it's really a charming movie, well able to hold its head up with the better known and more highly lauded screwball comedies of the era should it be given another chance. Rogers as Janie is understandably fickle as she is presented with the choice between three suitors, and if there's any tension here it's about whether she makes the correct decision or not. Tom keeps telling her of the promotions at the car salesroom he works at, and how he is continuing to do better and better, so he seems like a safe prospect for marriage, but then when she comes home that evening and announces to her family that she's engaged, she qualifies that statement with the point that she may even accept Tom's hand.

As the opening indicates, what she truly wants is to be swept off her feet by a millionaire who will whisk her away from her boring telephonist job, and there happens to be one in town: Dick (Alan Marshal), a debonair bachelor who having never seen him, she initially believes to be Harry (Burgess Meredith) because he is a mechanic driving Dick's car to the garages when she catches sight of him at the traffic lights and jumps into the passenger seat. They make a date for that evening, but she is not best pleased when he turns out to have a dollar eighty on him to entertain her for the whole night - but he does manage to do it, much to her surprise, and possibly to yours if you never considered famed character actor Meredith as a romantic lead before.

But the story continues as Janie accepts Harry's offer of engagement - after all, they heard chimes when they kissed - only to use subterfuge to get yet another date, this time with Dick. He is truly the man of her dreams as he shows her the ritzy life of high society, but talking of those dreams some of the funniest sequences show her fantasies about how her marital bliss to each of the men could turn out, with Tom awarded endless promotions, Harry shunning money for the simple life of fishing, and Dick oddly absent, only offering her his riches to live off. This ends with a censor-baiting dream where Janie is married to the trio simultaneously, and it's the application of the ridiculous in conjunction with the delightfully sweet that lends the film its considerable appeal. It may even have been the best film its legendary director Garson Kanin was ever involved with as director, certainly the best one he didn't write himself, and the cast shone from Rogers down to Phil Silvers as the ice cream man. A true gem. Music by Roy Webb.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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