For Reel

Merton of the Movies (1947)
July 24, 2016, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Alton
2.5 Stars
Merton of the MoviesAt the time of its release in 1947, Merton of the Movies had already been brought to screen on two occasions: first in 1924; next in 1932 as the sublime, overlooked Make Me a Star. The premise is an irresistible comic tragedy, telling the story of an idealist who nearly gets chewed up and spit out by Hollywood. In this adaptation, Red Skelton is cast as the eponymous Merton—it’s easy to see why he was chosen for the role, although as such a noted comedian there is an over-reliance on gags (for the film to work, the audience cannot join the movie industry in laughing at Merton). While Make Me a Star focused more on the complicated, bittersweet victory in the end of the film, Merton of the Movies finds Merton almost immediately pleased that he finds success as a comedian, almost ignoring the humiliation he suffers altogether. It causes many problems for the drama—the suspense regarding how Merton will react when he discovers the truth is a narrative dead end, with this adaptation focusing on a finale that sees Skelton hiding from gangsters in a theater. Virginia O’Brien doesn’t have the world weariness to play the cynic she’s wrought to be, but she does show good romantic chemistry with Skelton in one knockout scene wherein she insists that he practice kisses on her.