Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bette Davis Month Bonus: The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941)

I went from a pleasantly diverting romantic comedy to this strained mess in my tour through the Bette Davis filmography. While It's Love I'm After was contrived and silly but ultimately entertaining and well-acted, The Bride Came C.O.D. is even more contrived but pretty consistently annoying, and my patience with it ran out quickly. Davis plays an imperious heiress who impulsively decides to marry a vapid bandleader (Jack Carson) whom she's known only a few days. Her father is apoplectic, so he hires the private pilot (James Cagney) flying the heiress and her fiance to Vegas to get married to instead take the heiress to her father.

It gets even more needlessly convoluted when the pilot and the heiress crash-land in a desert ghost town inhabited by a single old coot, but all the plot machinations serve the single purpose of, naturally, getting the two main characters together. Davis and Cagney bicker the entire time but have no chemistry, and the characters are both so unlikable that it's hard to root for them to end up with anyone. The heiress is spoiled and spiteful, and the pilot is dishonest and condescending. Those are not the makings of a great love story.

The plot works so hard to delay the inevitable that it's kind of maddening; the two characters spend a significant amount of time trapped in an old mine for no apparent reason. The difference between this movie and It's Love I'm After can be summed up by a comedic bit they both share, in which Davis' character barricades the door to her room only to have her unwanted suitor come in by the window behind her. In Love, Leslie Howard enters with a playful wink and soon the two are in each other's arms; in Bride, Cagney enters with a sneer and looks ready to pounce. Which of those sounds funny and romantic?

No comments: