Films, Books, Musings-With the Glamour of Old Hollywood and the Flair of the Retro

Duchess of Idaho- A Movie Review.

In Movies on September 16, 2012 at 11:07 am


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 1950. Technicolor. Musical.

Duchess of Idaho features swimming star Esther Williams playing Christine Duncan, a nightclub water performer who cooks up a scheme to help her room mate, Ellen (Paula Raymond) land her boss. Ellen is frequently called upon by her boss, Douglas.J.Morrison (John Lund) to pose as his fiance to help him shake off girlfriends with marriage on their mind. When Ellen thinks of Mr Morrison she also has marriage on her mind, but he barely knows she exists. Christine decides to follow Mr Morrison on a trip to Sun Valley, catch his attention, and then not so subtly hint at marriage so that Ellen will be called upon to rescue him, and capture his heart. Complications arise when Christine must keep up the ruse with Mr Morrison while finding herself feeling romantically inclined toward a band leader playing in Sun Valley, Dick Layn (Van Johnson).

Duchess of Idaho was the fourth film co-starrring Esther Williams and Van Johnson as romantic leads with a ‘mismatched lovers plot’, as Esther Williams called it. Williams is also quoted as saying,
“As happy as I was to be working once more with Van, the recycled plots were getting to me. At one point I turned to Van and said, ‘Didn’t we do this scene before in an elevator?” He laughed. “Esther, this is our fourth picture together: We’ve done this scene in an elevator; at the side of the pool, and we’ve even done it swimming in the pool together; with you holding me up so I could say my lines and not go blub-blub-underwater.” He was not exaggerating…We could laugh about it, but the truth was that there was a definite predictability to the plots of my films. Audiences had come to expect a certain kind of film from me, and these movies were immensely popular.”

Duchess of Idaho differed in that it featured entertainers in cameo roles, such as Lena Horne, Red Skeleton, Mel Torme and Eleanor Powell. Eleanor Powell played herself being coaxed into dancing by Dick Layn at the night club where his band is playing. In her book, The Million Dollar Mermaid, William writes that she was touched, watching Powell rehearsing until her feet bled, in order to make her brief cameo as perfect as possible.

Yes, the plot is predictable and used over and over in Hollywood because it was popular with movie goers and fits the musical comedy genre. Hollywood is STILL using the same plot, only now it is called a ‘chick flick’. Still we watch, and enjoy despite knowing the formula, and once the truth about the scheming is told and the tension is resolved and couples’ are set for ‘happily ever after’, the fun- and the movie is over. Fade out. The End. Credits roll.

Duchess of Idaho is available on DVD. Try the sources below.

Fishpond Australia

Amazon USA


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