Saturday, July 7, 2012

Film Review: Julia Misbehaves (1948)

A truly delightful comedy.
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TCM: A showgirl returns to her stuffy estranged husband when their daughter gets engaged.

     In the fifth of their eight films together, Julia Misbehaves was meant to shake up the quickly tiring combination of the two who were the "epitome of grace under fire" as TCM: The Leading Couples puts it. Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson were best known for their pairing in such films as Blossoms in the Dust, Madam Curie, and, of course, Mrs. Miniver which were all about strong people being put to the ultimate tests that life threw at them.
     Julia Misbehaves, a film meant to shake up their loving husband and wife image, is the exact opposite. It's crazy light fun reminiscent of a 30s slapstick.
     I thoroughly enjoyed Julia Misbehaves and I can't quite seem to wrap my head around the reason why it failed. Sure, I can see how some might balk at the fact that they didn't want to see Greer Garson, who at this point was seen as a very loving, motherly figure, leave her husband and child for the stage, but really, in my opinion that shouldn't have caused them to dislike the film as they did.
Julia Misbehaves (1948)
Meet Julia, the actress on the first floor.
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     The film starts out in London in 1936 with a woman named Louise running across the street, dodging on coming cars, dashing into a shop and informing, Benji, the pro-prietor, that Julia intends to off herself. Hurrying back across the street, Benji and Louise rush inside the building whereas we, the audience, are given a hint that something might be up with the deceleration of this Julia "doing away with herself" when an old busybody woman tells her friend, "It's that actress on the first floor."
     Benji and Louise rush into the apartment, and we find a group of men who inform Benji where she is exactly and that she plans on "sticking her head in the oven". Pounding on the door insistently, he commands for Julia to open the door . . . whereupon the camera shows us that a large grandfather clock and other assorted items are lodged up against the door barring anyone from entering, and Julia . . . not sticking her head in an oven to do away with herself, but soaking in a bubble bath in a large tub.
Julia Misbehaves (1948)
Walter Pidgeon as the husband, William,
 and Elizabeth Taylor as the daughter,
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     And it is with this introduction that you pretty much figure that you are in for a good time, which you are. As far as I can see, comedy wasn't exactly Greer's forte, drama being mostly her line of work, but I think she was wonderful as the madcap Julia and the puzzlement over why this film failed still continues to boggle my mind. It seems to me that the 1948 audience didn't realize that it had a truly funny film on it's hands just like a decade before the 1938 audience didn't realize that they had the greatest slapstick comedy on their hands--does Bringing Up Baby ring any bells for anyone?
Julia Misbehaves - Greer Garson
"Save me! Save me!"
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     This isn't my first Walter and Greer picture, Scandal at Scourie (1953) having been the first, but it is my second of their eight films together, and already I know that I really like them as a team. They have a great chemistry, though it is quiet kind of chemistry in my opinion, and I think they worked very well off each other. They were people of dignity, and it shows. Of course, just because they were people of dignity, that does not mean they weren't willing to be, say, and act some very silly and wild things.
Julia Misbehaves (1948)
Mother and daughter meeting for the first time in years.
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     I've noticed as I've watched Greer's films, which most of them have her as a mother, is that she really was a natural when it came to portraying a mother. She did it in such a way that has me believing if her onscreen children had been her children, she would act just as she did in the film: patient, loving, and understanding. So, to state the obvious, I really liked Julia's and Susan's relationship in the film. I question as to whether or not Susan really would have accepted her mother back as easily as she did, but that does little to deter my liking of the picture.
     Another aspect that I liked about the picture, surprisingly, was Peter Lawford. Now, being the huge fan of Dean Martin, I've seen Peter in all of the "Rat Pack" pictures, and Easter Parade (1948), but that's about all I've seen of him. And besides the latter, I've never really been given a good picture of Peter Lawford. I didn't like him and I didn't dislike him; he just kind of . . . was. In Julia Misbehaves, however, I liked him. Granted, his role is kind of small, but he and Elizabeth hit just the right note for me together, and he gave me some laughs (and if you can make me laugh it's a good chance that I'm going to end up liking you).
Ritchie, Susan, William, and Julia getting ready for a picnic.
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     One thing I did find very interesting is that while Julia is suppose to be coming for her daughter's wedding, not once do you see you see the prospective groom (no, Peter Lawford isn't the groom, though that's what I had thought at first). The only thing that gives you an idea that there is a fiance is that there is 1) a picture of the fiance , and 2) a wedding rehearsal where the groom's parents are met and we find out that he's off at some meeting. Other then that--nothing! And I like it that way (Peter and Elizabeth are very cute together in my opinion, so I didn't want anything messing up the picture).
     Julia Misbehaves is a delightful film that should be given a chance by everyone. It's light fun, and it's a film I think the whole family would enjoy. I give this film 3/4 stars, and I leave you with one of my favorite scenes (and the funniest) from the film:

(Video Courtesy of

1 comment:

azw596 said...

Now learning that there are eight films that Ms. Garson made with Walter Pidgeon has me me anxious to see them all, for I too appreciate their "quiet kind of chemistry" together and how very well they work off each other. And as you so very well put it, "they were people of dignity"! I thoroughly enjoyed this film and was immediately taken by the very convincing manner with which both the comedic and dramatic moments were handled by Greer Garson, as exemplified in the two scenes that you picture, "Save Me!" and "mother and daughter meeting...".
Thanks so very much for another excellent review, and for having chosen this great film to introduce me to this month's star!