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Sunday, February 21, 2016

THRILL OF A ROMANCE -- Movie Review by Porfle

In THRILL OF A ROMANCE (1945), Esther Williams is a swimming instructor named Cynthia Glenn who lives with her lovably eccentric uncle and aunt, played by Henry Travers (Clarence the angel in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE) and Spring Byington.

Cynthia (who for some strange reason doesn't already have dozens of guys vying for her attention) is swept off her feet by a young business tycoon named Bob Delbar (Carleton G. Young) who takes her to a fancy hotel in the mountains for their honeymoon and then leaves her alone--on their wedding night--when a big deal lures him away to Washington. Yep, we knew right away that stuffed-shirt Bob wasn't the right guy for our Cynthia.

Right on cue, the suddenly lonely new bride meets warm, friendly war hero Major Thomas Milvaine (Van Johnson at his most personable), who falls for her like a sad-eyed puppy dog. We know that they'll be together by the end of the movie, and we can't wait to see Cynthia unload that incredible stiff Bob Delbar.

But before that, we must endure the tortures of self-denial as Cynthia and Tommy splash around in the pool and dine to the music of Tommy Dorsey while rigidly maintaining the proper hands-off attitude.

Also practicing self-denial is Metropolitan Opera star Lauritz Melchior as rotund opera singer Nils Knudsen, who's trying to lose weight. Eventually becoming the benevolent cupid who helps bring Cynthina and Tommy together, the chubby-cheeked Melchior gets plenty of opportunities to sing in his bombastic style--we even get to see a closeup of his quivering tonsils during the titles--while his roly-poly character comically suffers through a vegetables-only diet as others around him indulge in rich food (just as Cynthia and Tommy yearn to indulge in each other).

The opening titles let the viewer know right off the bat that THRILL OF A ROMANCE is going to be filled with music, from opera to big band and in between. Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra are on hand for several hot big-band tunes, some including his nimble-fingered young daughter Susan on piano.

During one rousing number, legendary cool cat Buddy Rich is featured in a kick-ass drum solo. With Dorsey's band, the hotel's house musicians, and opera singer Melchior running around, we have here the rare musical in which the songs and tunes don't just come from out of nowhere.

Esther, of course, gets a lot of mileage out of the hotel's wonderfully kitschy swimming pool set as Cynthia teaches Tommy how to swim and does several nice slow-motion dives off the high board.

She also looks great in a series of outfits that compliment her figure, which is a never-ending source of visual delight. The breathtaking mountain and forest settings of San Bernadino's Arrowhead Springs Hotel and Yosemite National Park provide even more sumptuous Technicolor scenery.

In the days before television, people didn't go to movies like this for the thrills or complicated plots. They wanted to see eye-filling sights, lavish production numbers, and good-looking movie stars. They also wanted to see their favorite radio stars perform the music they could usually only hear over the airwaves.

The simple story of THRILL OF A ROMANCE could've been told in twenty minutes, but getting there at a leisurely pace while savoring the sights and sounds along the way is what it's all about. All you have to do is settle in and enjoy the ride.



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