Saturday, November 11, 2017

THE EVE ARDEN BLOGATHON: The Doughgirls (1944)


Phyllis Loves Classic Movies is hosting The Eve Arden blogathon running November 11 and 12. Click HERE for the fun times with everyone's favourite wisecracking dame.

The Doughgirls was a successful Broadway play by Joseph Fields that ran for 671 performances beginning in 1942. Fields, son of entertainer Lew and brother of lyricist Dorothy, was a successful screenwriter and playwright who won Tony Awards for Wonderful Town and Flower Drum Song. Other hits include My Sister Eileen, The Desk Set, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Anita Loos.

The plot involves three married ladies, who discover through happenstance that they are not really married. Their problems are only beginning as they struggle to maintain their hold on a hotel suite in the midst of the Washington housing shortage.

The Doughgirls - Broadway cast
Arlene Francis, Doris Nolan, Arleen Whelan, Virginia Field

The cast of this comedy on stage were accomplished actresses, but Hollywood, particularly Warner Brothers who purchased the property, had their own stable of accomplished actresses. Thus, Vivian played by Arleen Whelan (Charley's Aunt) was replaced with Jane Wyman. Edna played by Virginia Field (Dial 1119) was replaced with Ann Sheridan. Nan played by Doris Nolan (Holiday) was replaced with Alexis Smith. Sylvia played by Natalie Schafer (Gilligan's Island) was replaced with Irene Manning. The scene stealing role of Russian sniper Sgt. Natalia Moskoroff played by Arlene Francis was replaced with Eve Arden.

The Doughgirls - on screen
Eve Arden, Jane Wyman, Alexis Smith, Ann Sheridan

Vivian (Wyman) and hubby Jack Carson were married by a bogus JP and their lives are complicated by his boss, played by Charlie Ruggles, becoming enamored of the suddenly single lady.

Edna's  (Sheridan) husband, played by John Ridgely finds his previous wife played by Irene Manning is not yet his previous wife.

Nan (Smith) had intended on marrying her flyer played by Craig Stevens, but he is quarantined with the measles. Charmingly, Alexis Smith and Craig Stevens were married in real life the year this movie was released. Their marriage lasted nearly 50 years until Alexis' passing in 1993.

Natalia had grown weary of life at the crowded Russian Embassy and sought to learn more about Americans by living with them. Eve's way with a quip loses none of its potency with the fractured-English dialogue and Natasha-like accent. Indeed, the humour is only heightened by these additions, and last on the bill Arden, though still above the title, manages to steal every scene in which she is involved. The role is not overused, and the audience looks forward to every appearance.

Political and contemporary jokes abound and will get chuckles out of those who know the history of the times. At the same time, jokes about being disowned for voting for the "wrong" party or finding a way to cheat the inheritance tax will give rise to a smirk or two. Vivian's seemingly naive rebuffs of the amorous advances of her boss (Wyman and Ruggles) are amusing, yet sure evidence of the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

We're in the money!
Alexis Smith, Ann Sheridan, Jane Wyman, Eve Arden

The three wives-without-hubbies knew each other from their past careers as chorus girls. One of them had booked the hotel room, but were scheduled to leave for the other. Discovering their friendship connection, the first couple extended their stay and then the third dancing pal moved in to create a cozy little mad house.

The three husbands-to-be are all involved with the war effort; a pilot, a fuel manufacturer looking for a deal, and a bureaucrat wanting to hold onto his job. The hotel is full of people with the vain hope that someone (anyone!) will check out soon. Barring a free room, there is a running gag with a fellow played by Joe DeRita simply hoping there is a couch he can use for a nap. Cleaning ladies rush in and out, a really old bellboy is a day late with room service menus, and the bill is enormous.


Speaking of the enormous bill, the girls come up with an ingenious and circuitous way of getting the hotel manager off their backs. It involves a card playing "pawn breaker" of Natalia's acquaintance. Eve Arden leading cleaning staff in her version of The Volga Boatman to lyrics which include "Put the ring in. Take the clips out." is only one of her very funny bits.

John Alexander is a businessman who falls for the first wife of the manufacturer. Regis Toomey is an FBI agent investigating the women's application to join a wartime service operation. Donald MacBride is a apoplectic judge who is supposed to marry someone, and it doesn't matter who! Alan Mowbray is a snooty, bragging radio correspondent who ends up sharing the suite at one point.

To no one's surprise, things work out with our romantic pairings, and it is all thanks to the adorably overbearing Natalia. Directed by James V. Kern, whose mettle proved to be TV comedy with I Love Lucy, My Three Sons, The Ann Sothern Show, and Pete and Gladys among his credits.

The Doughgirls has an obvious 3 act set-up retained from the play (you can't see it, but you can sense the curtain closing), and most of its action takes place in the hotel suite, but hey, why mess with success? A play with over 600 performances that gives a cast a chance to shine and an audience a chance to laugh doesn't need to be fixed.










16 comments:

  1. I couldn't get past the implications at the thought that three women had obviously been having sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage... in 1944 (Horrors! What would Breen and the censors of the day think?) I know, I tend to overthink things... :-D

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    1. You? Overthink things? I am sitting here shaking my head.

      Nobody gets to spend any alone time in that suite. I believe that must have calmed Breen. Now, before our story begins ...

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  2. It's been a while since I watched this one, but what I do remember of it is Eve Arden's marvelous performance.

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    1. This movie is hilarious--I saw it on TCM years ago. Eve Arden played a great Russian. It was cool seeing Charles Ruggles way before "The Parent Trap," too.

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    2. Brittaney, Eve really does steal the show. Part of it is that it is written that way, but you have to be the right actress for the role, and she certainly was the right one.

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    3. Rebecca, it is amazing how many wonderful movies Charlie Ruggles made in his long career. He left us a lot to enjoy. A word to the wise: the only time I have ever disliked Ruggles was in 1933s Murders at the Zoo. Until that time, I had no idea I could ever dislike the actor.

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  3. FUN!! I must rewatch this soon and how much I would give to have seen the original stage play with that cast too. Ms. Arden makes this movie, in my opinion, but the lot is worth the price of admission. As is your entertaining commentary.

    Aurora

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    1. Thanks.

      The first time I came across this movie, it was in the middle of a scene with Eve Arden, and she drew me back to enjoy the whole movie. What a kick it would have been to see the original cast.

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  4. I was totally unfamiliar with THE DOUGHGIRLS, so definitely a fun, informative review. And what a quartet of leading actresses! It's ironic that I discovered Eve's TV series "The Mothers-in-Law" on Amazon just last week. It was the first time I ever saw her--long before I knEw she was a movie star!

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    1. I think you and I share a spot on that same boat with The Mothers-in-Law being our introduction to Eve Arden. I remember it fondly.

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  5. Wonderful review! Although I wasn't quite a fan of this film when I first saw it, I must admit the cast is really terrific and I remember finding Arden to be hilarious. Perhaps it's time to give this movie another chance.

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    1. I think the second time around you find time to appreciate the little touches. That's what happened to me. It's not a great movie, but it is fun, especially since it is the gals who carry the thing.

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  6. Wow, this film sounds so good! I'm learning about a lot of movies I've still got to see because of the blogathon. Comedies about "we're not really married" are always good with me.
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Kisses!
    Le

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    1. The wartime comedies were cheeky and this one is filled with fun stuff. I think you would get a kick out of it.

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  7. I have to admit, when I saw this movie a couple years ago I found Arden's character a little much but I didn't really know Arden back then - had probably only seen her as the nurse on Bewitched - so I'm wanting to watch it again now that I'm an Arden fan. I really liked Carson and Wyman in this film. Forgot about the couch bit!! Yeah, I really need to watch this again.

    Thanks for bringing this fun film to the Blogathon!!

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    1. Carson and Wyman are marvelous, aren't they? I think on a second go-round you'll see why they gave this part to Eve Arden. She gave it her all.

      Thanks for the wonderful blogathon tribute to Eve Arden. I had a lot of fun participating.

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