Dec 3, 2019
On DVD/Blu-Ray: Ann Dvorak Steals the Show in Out of the Blue (1947)
Director Leigh Jason’s Out of the Blue (1947) aims for screwball comedy, but doesn’t have the pace or cast to fit the bill. Instead, it is an offbeat ensemble piece with a few plot points that haven’t aged well and a supremely silly performance by Ann Dvorak.
Based on Vera Caspary’s (Laura) novel of the same name, Out of the Blue unfolds in a busy Greenwich Village apartment building. The timid Arthur Earthleigh (George Brent) sends his overbearing wife (Carole Landis) off to visit her sister for the weekend. When he goes to a restaurant for dinner, he meets tipsy barfly Olive Jensen (Ann Dvorak), who invites herself back to his apartment, but only because she wants to relieve him of his brandy. When Jensen won’t leave, and exacerbates things by succumbing to an apparently regular fainting spell, Earthleigh thinks she is dead and leaves her on his artist neighbor David Gelleo’s (Turhan Bey) terrace. Arthur hopes to get rid of both his own problem and the artist, whose dog digs up his wife’s zinnias, but David and his new girlfriend Deborah Tyler (Virginia Mayo) are a step ahead of him and playfully thwart his plans. All the while meddling neighbors Miss Spring (Elizabeth Patterson) and Miss Ritchie (Julia Dean) clutch their pearls and call the police with regularity.
This farcical set-up with a decent running time of 86 has a surprisingly languid pace. It starts at a decent clip, but gradually loses momentum. That is due in part to Leigh’s direction, but it doesn’t help that the rigid Brent is clearly not suited to comedy. While Bey and Mayo are more assured, they are too easygoing for screwball action. It is Dvorak who crackles; so much so that when she is absent there is a profound effect on the pacing.
However, it’s worth it to settle into the bizarre world of this film. The enviably lavish apartments with their expansive terraces would never belong to characters of these means, but they are a joy to behold. It’s great to see Bey in a non-exotic role, and he is quite adorable romancing an equally appealing Mayo in his goofy artist’s shorts and socks with sandals. Dvorak is a lot, but she intends to be and it’s great to see her given the opportunity to sink her teeth into such a strange role. Her character and what she goes through will be unsettling to modern eyes; she clearly needs help with her alcoholism and no one seems terribly bothered whether she is dead or passed out, but that vibe somehow fits with the weirdness of the plot, however uneasily.
This unusual comedy should ultimately be rewarding to fans of the stars. It is an essentially pleasant oddity and on the whole an enjoyable watch.
Out of the Blue (1947) has now been released on DVD/Blu-ray by ClassicFlix. The film looks and sounds great. The only bonus feature on the disc is a collection of trailers for other ClassicFlix releases.
Many thanks to ClassicFlix for providing a copy of the disc for review.