People Will Talk Reviews
Predictable but charming, Joseph L. Mankiewicz once again proves why he's one of my favorite classic directors. His stories are tightly constructed, and the performances by his actors are always fun but with a kind of depth that many directors of his time weren't able to manage. Cary Grant, the great gentleman of classic film, is alternatively charming and petulant, able to convey a strength of character that is absent in present-day movie stars.
I would have liked the film to be more morally ambiguous. The entire question of the film is whether or not Grant's character harbor some deep, black secret (as though one could be such a question on Grant), and by the time we realize he's as pure as he purports to be, it's like we been shown a box that contains a treasure, but once the box is opened, we discover it's only a scrap of paper reading, "Fooled you."
Overall, I enjoyed People Will Talk, but the compelling story is not flawless.
Doctor Noah Praetorius is a physician that falls in love with a woman who one day falls on his doorstep. She is pregnant by an ex-boyfriend she wants nothing to do with. She also comes from a very unique family, background, and living situation. He also becomes under investigation by the hospital board. The doctor tries to balance his personal and professional life.
"Never look a gift horse in the mouse."
"I never look any horse in the mouth."
Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director of Guys and Dolls, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, The Honey Pot, Escape, Dragonwyck, and House of Strangers delivers People Will Talk. The storyline for this picture is interesting and fun to watch unfold. The characters are unique though a bit stretched for such an intricate plot. The cast delivers remarkable performances and includes Cary Grant, Jeanne Crain, Sidney Blackner, Hume Cronyn, and Finlay Currie.
"Are you crying again?"
This was recently added to the Netflix classic online queue so I had to watch it. This was a very entertaining film that was masterfully executed by Grant. This is far from his best film, there's a bit too much going on, but this is a classic film that displays Grant's greatness.
"You're even littler than you were before."
However, when I saw the description on my TV my interest was piqued.
I saw 1951.
I saw Carey Grant.
I saw something about an unplanned pregnancy, and I saw the title, People Will Talk.
Needless to say, I had to see this.
So, I recorded it with my DVR a while back and took some time to watch it yesterday.
Maybe it is just me, but I get some kind of thrill out of watching old movies deal with taboo subjects, like an unwanted pregnancy. If you are like me, you too will enjoy People Will Talk and how it handles some sticky subject matter. People Will Talk follows Dr. Noah Praetorius (played by Carey Grant) as a mysterious past catches up with him, threatening to possibly ruin his medical career. Part of what puzzles those who are investigating his past is his inexplicable connection to a man named Shunderson, someone who hardly ever leaves the side of Praetorius and someone to which Dr. Praetorious seems to be very very close. Dr. Praetorious refers to Shunderson as his "friend" but it is up to the viewer to determine exactly what their connection is. Also, under investigation is the doctor's peculiar medical past and practices, including his beginnings in a small town and how his time there funded the opening of his own clinic.
This is a movie that is not only political, but way ahead of its time. It is meant to come across as a light romantic comedy, but underneath that 1950s conservative surface it deals with what were likely some of the director's and/or writer's political soapboxes. If for no other reason the movie is captivating due to how it deals with topics like premarital sex, abortion, the HUAC hearings, homosexuality, tax laws and ethics, the pharmaceuticals industry, government jobs, and the field of medicine, etc.
Don't expect this movie to be preachy, it shys away from being preachy and was likely enjoyed and still can be enjoyed on a very surface level as a fun romantic comedy. That is to the credit of the script and the direction, much like many film makers that show a command of the medium, this film entertains and fascinates on many levels. There are some flaws to the film, the basic story line is a little drawn out (though I never found myself bored), some of the dialogue seems too scripted, and there are some unanswered questions (I was dying to know what became of the lives of those in this movie after the movie ends) that may be frustrating to some, but it certainly kept me attentive and I think classic film fans especially will be glad they took the time to see this atypical 1950s film.
Carey Grant is fun to watch as he plays this role. He seems to really enjoy the role, and his love for the character or the story or the issues being handled certainly is apparent. The life of Dr. Noah Praetorious and Carey Grant certainly are both filled with mystery. What is the truth about this man and this character he played? No matter what you think, no matter what conclusions you come to, People Will Talk will certainly have you talking about it, well after it is over.
Okay. Cary Grant plays Dr. Noah Praetorius, who is under investigation for some undisclosed reason by Hume Cronyn. Hume Cronyn is interviewing some ancient and surly woman who used to be Cary Grant's housekeeper; she has something interesting to say about someone of Cary Grant's acquaintance, but we don't get to hear what.
Cary Grant then takes over one of Hume Cronyn's classes (why? who knows?) briefly, as good ol' Hume is late. Cary Grant gives some lecture about a cadaver (lovely woman vaguely resembling our costar) not being all there is to know about humanity or some such. Our costar faints.
Well, naturally, she's pregnant. And unmarried. (In the fifties, yet--the father is killed in Korea, as I recall.) She says she can't tell her own father about it, walks out of Cary Grant's office, and attempts suicide. Since the class she fainted in was her first anatomy class, she'd not the faintest where her heart was and fails. Cary Grant lies to her and says she isn't pregnant to ease her despair. (Huh?) He also determines to work things out so she can tell her father and, presumably, live happily ever after.
Ah, but it turns out the father isn't the problem. The father, and the girl, live with the father's surly brother. Who looks as if he'd kick 'em both out soon as look at 'em--he lives, he says, by the Bible and the calendar. He's got a schedule wrought in iron that cannot be violated. Horrible little man. So, of course, Cary Grant marries the girl. Who still thinks she isn't pregnant. But she is in love with Cary Grant--as who, after all, is not?--and so goes along with it.
With me so far? Good. We're about to get to the confusing part. (Really.)
The girl's starting to think she might be pregnant (the fact that she hasn't had a period in three months or more clearly not being enough of a sign!), and she tells Cary Grant so on his birthday. He reveals his lie. She is, understandably, less than pleased with his little deception. They have dinner. Cary Grant plays with model trains.
Remember that investigation with Hume Cronyn from the beginning of the movie? Good. It turns out that they're going to have a hearing about it before the faculty (they both work at a university; I forgot to mention that, didn't I?) on the night of and just before the performance of the university symphony, which Cary Grant conducts. (No music department?) One of the other members of the tribunal plays bass. So he and Cary Grant are both necessary for the performance, which is delayed by Hume and his findings. (Officially the part that made the least sense to me.)
It turns out that the guy that's been following Cary Grant around the whole movie (who at first I thought was kind of like Harvey) is, technically, an escaped murderer. The reasons behind this make me despair for the legal system under which he was prosecuted, but oh, well. This manages, through explanation of the scenario, to make Cary Grant seem the more noble. He goes off and conducts the orchestra. The girl feels the baby kick for the first time. Fade out.
Now, I'm sure you're with me in thinking, "That's complicated." In fact, I feel that this movie should be divided in half. We never do resolve the whole pregnancy thing satisfactorily. It almost seems an afterthought for the last half of the movie, even though it took up so much focus in the first half. The investigation gets mentioned a couple of times in the first half, but after the first five minutes, we largely forget about it until the end. Somewhere, I feel sure, there's a Cary Grant movie where the first half is about the investigation of a college professor and the second half is about his wife coming to terms with bearing another man's child, and possibly about how they'll explain to the girl's uncle (and father!) how early the baby came after the wedding. The scripts got switched, that's all.
Don't get me wrong. It was charming. I enjoyed it. It was quite funny in places. It just felt like too much plot, neither of which is ever quite carried through. Still, it's Cary Grant, so it's hard to go entirely wrong.