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Sunday, 5 July 2015

Bologna Diary Eight - Leo McCarey and Secret Men's Business

I am told by a reliable source that if you are a member of a certain informal secret society, and to date at least I am not, you can access a copy of a version of Leo McCarey's Good Sam (USA, 1948). This version is 20 minutes longer, uses alternate takes and has some significant differences to the 115 minute version on show in Bologna as part of a very popular McCarey retrospective that offered the intriguing prospects of parallel views of themes and subjects from the director's early and later career. Thus Part Time Wife (1930) was set up to play into The Awful Truth (1937). It's a neat idea but not one that can be taken that far. And it's not one that makes much sense beyond massive crowd pleasing when you program three McCarey supervised Laurel and Hardy shorts in Bologna's Piazza Maggiore with a Timothy Brock led whip-smart live orchestra and eight thousand people turn up.

But back to Good Sam.  Whatever may be hidden away in that 20 minute longer version that Paramount refuses to allow out, the movie on show really does resonate. Neighbours, friends, customers, the poor, the rich, the halt and the lame prey upon Sam (Gary Cooper) and his wife (Ann Sheridan) and the comedy zings. Just when you think it's going to turn in Sam's favour, McCarey hits him with another improbable zinger, right down to the woman who takes him back to her hotel room and mugs him. Maybe a masterpiece and certainly a movie which when combined with the earlier Woman on the Run (Norman Foster, USA, 1950) makes you think that there's a case to be made to put on an Ann Sheridan retro somewhere....

The 115 minute version of Good Sam  is available on DVD from the US.

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