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Friday, November 18, 2016
I love old movies, and sometimes there's nothing better than a sharp-looking, vintage black-and-white flick with a good cast that's entertaining without requiring me to expend too many precious brain cells. In this regard, the turbulent romantic drama LULU BELLE (1948, Olive Films) fits the bill quite nicely, thanks.
For one thing, it's a great opportunity to see Dorothy Lamour on her own instead of as a foil for Hope and Crosby. The film opens with a big, corny Broadway production number that allows her fans to revel in the leggy lass's exotic presence right off the bat before a mysterious backstage double shooting sets the "whodunnit?" story into motion.
After that, ex-husband George Davis (broad-shouldered George Montgomery, appealing as a well-meaning he-man type) is accused of the deed which has left both Lulu and her aging sugar daddy Harry Randolph (Otto Kruger, DRACULA'S DAUGHTER) comatose.
His flashback recollections told to interrogating detective Addison Richards (THE MUMMY'S CURSE) reveal his fateful meeting with seductive barfly Lulu and their subsequent whirlwind courtship and marriage.
Lulu's expensive tastes quickly deplete George's modest bank account and leave him jobless and near destitute, forcing him to take up boxing for wealthy fight promoter Brady (Albert Dekker, DR. CYCLOPS). Meanwhile, faithless gold digger Lulu works her way from man to man--including burly palooka Butch Cooper (Greg McClure) as well as Brady and Randolph--trading up in money and status each time and eventually landing her own Broadway show while the lovelorn and almost penniless George is left in her diamond dust.
All of this is just lightly melodramatic enough to be entertaining without going off the deep end, with a snappy pace and neat direction by Leslie Fenton (WHISPERING SMITH, STREETS OF LAREDO).
Crisp, eye-pleasing black-and-white photography and attractive production values augment a nostalgic turn-of-the-(20th)-century ambience, which looks studio-bound but in a good way, giving it the feel of an upscale pulp fairytale.
The supporting cast is dotted with great stars. In addition to Dekker and Kruger, the wonderful Glenda Farrell (MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM) adds greatly to the film's appeal as Lulu's wisecracking confidante, Molly. (I'll have to go back and look for the ubiquitous Bess Flowers; she's in the cast list on IMDb but I missed her.) Dialogue is fast and snappy, with some fun exchanges such as this:
GEORGE: "Honey, we don't need money that badly."
LULU: "There's only one way to need money...that's to NEED it!"
The DVD from Olive Films is in 1.37:1 (windowboxed) with mono sound and optional English subtitles. No extras. Picture quality is superb.
The potentially lurid subject (for 1948) of a wanton woman man-hopping her way to success is handled quite tastefully here, with Lulu's character ultimately redeemed by the fact that she never stops carrying a torch for George. Dorothy Lamour really seems to relish delving into the part of a scheming vixen with a veneer of tarnished glamour. In LULU BELLE, she plays this seductive but emotionally conflicted gold digger to the hilt, riding her star vehicle for all it's worth.
Buy it from Olive Films:
Buy it at Amazon.com: