For Reel

The Iron Petticoat (1956)
February 13, 2016, 1:39 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Ralph Thomas
2 Stars
The Iron PetticoatA bizarre, ill-fated novelty in which two asynchronous talents came together to make a complete disaster, The Iron Petticoat not only lead to critical scorn at the time of its release, but prompted full-page ads taken out in The Hollywood Reporter by screenwriter Ben Hecht claiming that Bob Hope had decimated his script. Among Hecht’s criticisms (also alluded to by Katharine Hepburn) was that Hepburn’s Captain Vinka Kovelenko plays second fiddle to Hope’s Major “Chuck” Lockwood–yes, Hepburn herself has to be a prop to Hope’s vaudeville humor! More bizarre than the pairing is the incredible misuse of Hepburn. Not only saddled with a terrible, inconsistent accent, the screenplay calls for her play “sexy”–something Hepburn wasn’t known for in the thirties, let alone two decades later. In the picture, she shops for a black negligee and even shows off her garters and long stockings. Director Ralph Thomas is as baffled as anyone would be given the task and lets the action unfold from a distance, having no sense of a guiding hand in the narrative. In the incompetence of the comedy and the all-encompassing failure of nearly every aspect in the production, this ranks alongside other 1950s comedy misfires like Abbott and Costello Meet Captain Kidd, which similarly teamed a pair of comics with a noted thespian (Charles Laughton). Had The Iron Petticoat been a serviceable Hope vehicle, the experiment might have been excusable, but even on those terms the film doesn’t contain a single memorable gag. The closest thing to a laugh happens with the sheer dissonance of the legendary Katharine Hepburn ogling an inflatable brasier (one of many mammary-obsessed jokes in the film) and critcizing, “ze illusions of democracy!”

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