FERNANDO’s CORNER – Posted October 18th, 2015
Thanks to a Spanish author who praises this film highly in a book I was reading I have dis-covered a new small gem: Irving Reis‘ “The Big Street“ ( 1942 ), based upon a Damon Runyon story. The movie stars Lucille Ball as a famous nightclub singer and dancer who’s quite tough and unpleasant towards people in general.
She’s had a hard life and she knows what she wants: prestige, money, security. She’s vulgar, selfish, but beautiful and rather glamorous at the same time. Henry Fonda plays a busboy who’s got a terrible crush on her and who only sees the good in her. Ball’s problem is she no longer wants to be the sweetheart of the underworld boss ( Barton MacLane ) she’s been going steady with. She prefers a blue-blooded ladies’ man she’s met. MacLane gets sore and knocks her down causing a bad fall which results in her becoming an invalid.
Enter ‘mousey’ Fonda and his pals who try to help her. The pals include Agnes Moorehead, Eugene Pallette, Sam Levene, Ray Collins et al…ALL superb. Louise Beavers is luminous as Ball’s faithful maid. This film is touching and, of course, has the fairy tale elements of Runyon’s stories ( like “Lady for a Day” ), but it is much darker and harsher, especially because Ball’s character has few redeeming qualities.
The ending is not happy.
This is perhaps Lucille Ball’s greatest performance ever (IMO). She truly impressed me here. Fonda is good as usual. A must-see.
CineMaven’s Note: Lucy and Fonda can be seen together 26 years later in 1968’s “Yours, Mines and Ours”.
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