Susan Slept Here (Frank Tashlin / U.S., 1954):

A bright reconfiguration of In a Lonely Place, the bobbysoxer muse in the birdcage. Christmastime in Hollywood is a singularly surreal state of mind, "it's the cream and sugar that get you," the Oscar statuette that narrates the tale is best put to use by cracking walnuts. Stumped by his latest project, the wry screenwriter (Dick Powell) is presented with the jailbait runaway (Debbie Reynolds) and finds inspiration after a fashion, also a Las Vegas wedding and the wrath of the posh fiancée (Anne Francis). Frank Tashlin conducts the arrangement meticulously in the bachelor flat with Preminger's sangfroid (The Moon Is Blue), then merrily bursts into proverbial song with exploding tree ornaments and abstract little fantasies. (The ponytailed heroine's Technicolor reverie shrinks her down to parakeet-size and sticks her beau in a spangled sailor suit, her rival in lamé gowns sports an extra pair of arachnoid arms.) Of juvenile delinquents and phantom pregnancies, the author's quandary: "Now why can't I think of plots like that?" Singin' in the Rain because it's Reynolds, who mocks the socialite's style on a projected screen and then apes it by trading tomboy raincoat for cowgirl fringes. The Bad and the Beautiful because it's Powell, plus a lost memory of his days of hoofers and gold-diggers alongside Glenda Farrell. (The harried secretary puckers up under the mistletoe and gets Alvy Moore's chipmunky kisser, "there ain't no Santa Claus!") The Freudian attorney and the vice-squad cupid and Red Skelton, too. Marriage has its strawberries and pickles, recommends the sage, and there you have the final image out of Magritte and Tweedy Bird. With Horace McMahon, Herb Vigran, Lee Tremayne, and Maidie Norman.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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