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Friday, February 26, 2016

EASY TO LOVE -- Movie Review by Porfle

With EASY TO LOVE (1953), swimming superstar Esther Williams returns to frothy comedy, ear-bending Tin Pan Alley songs, and a shallow plot to keep us occupied between Busby Berkeley fever dreams.

Esther plays Julie, an overworked swimsuit model and aqua-performer for the tourists at Cypress Gardens in Florida. THRILL OF A ROMANCE's Van Johnson is back as her manipulative boss Ray. King Donovan (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) has the thankless role of Ray's bumbling assistant, Ben, and REVENGE OF THE CREATURE's John Bromfield returns to the water as Hank, a hunky but not-too-bright coworker who's sweet on Julie.

During a trip to New York Julie falls in love with oily nightclub singer Barry Gordon (Tony Martin, THE BIG STORE) and is offered more than three times her regular salary to join a show there. (Blink and you'll miss Carroll Baker in a tiny role as one of Barry's romantic cast-offs.)

But after a guilt trip from Ray it's back to Florida, where she's now torn between him, Barry, and Hank. Only after Barry shows up at Cypress Gardens to sweep Julie off her feet does Ray finally realize, perhaps too late, that he's in love with her.

As you might expect, the story is just about the least important element in this frivolous concoction. Esther gets to play a crabby character for a change, constantly complaining about how hard Ray works her. Which is okay because she's cute when she's angry--or any other time, as EASY TO LOVE gives her plenty of chances to demonstrate.

As for the songs, the least said the better. When Tony Martin sits at a hotel piano and starts singing the interminable "That's What a Rainy Day is For" to a bunch of moony-eyed old ladies, you may think you've gone to hell.

The rest of his tunes are equally forgettable (except for Cole Porter's "Easy to Love", a holdover from THIS TIME FOR KEEPS) and directed in a rather lethargic way as is most of the movie.

Esther does a little waterskiing and a pleasantly hokey water dance with the beefy John Bromfield, then later puts on clown makeup for a forgettable comedy number. During her audition for a producer in New York, it's just Esther in a plain tank of water with no frills, fancy costumes, or sets--just her beautiful underwater ballet moves--and it's one of the best moments in the picture.

Notoriously flamboyant choreographer Busby Berkeley finally gets off his duff in the final minutes to give us the kind of exotic water carnival-type routine we expect from him. Eight speedboats pulling dozens of waterskiiers weave their way through columns of water blasting upward out of the lake until Esther grabs onto a trapeze hanging from a helicopter and dives into a sparkling tableau of streaming banners and cascading fountains. It's freakin' insane!

Before this hyperkinetic assault on the senses has even had a chance to die down, the plot is resolved chop-chop as Julie falls for the right guy while the other two slink off in defeat. Well, not quite--Tony Martin runs into his real-life wife, FIESTA's Cyd Charisse (not a bad consolation prize), while the other loser suddenly realizes that he's really in love with Julie's roommate, Nancy (Edna Skinner).

It's a happy ending for everyone involved, including the viewers who are relieved that EASY TO LOVE is finally over. (It's still kinda fun, though.)



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