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Paramount Studios presents
"To me, journalism is like a hangover. You can read about it for years, but until you've actually experienced it, you have no conception of what it's really like."
DVD ReviewJournalism and romantic comedy make strange bedfellows, which may explain why Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday is such a delightful anomaly. Who knew pounding the typewriter and working the phones could be so sexy, but Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell turn the newsroom into a substitute for the bedroom, and their rapid-fire banter lofts Hawks' hilarious battle-of-the-sexes into the classic realm. Teacher's Pet, directed by George Seaton (The Country Girl, Miracle on 34th Street), tries its best to recreate the formula, but writers Fay and Michael Kanin can't replicate the crackling dialogue of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, and their preoccupation with preachy messages douses any romantic sparks. They also fail to maximize the rich comic possibilities inherent in the casting of screen Casanova Clark Gable opposite the movies' eternal virgin, Doris Day. Though well suited to their roles, Gable and Day spend more time sniping than smooching, and never create the steamy chemistry so vital to this type of film.
Part of the problem is the pair's 23-year age difference, but Day's prim nature also doesn't mesh well with Gable's machismo. The actor always worked better with more bawdy dames like Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, and Ava Gardner, and the 57-year-old's prurient interest in Day makes him seem—for the first time—like a dirty old man. And though Day's character, Erica Stone, possesses far more dimension than the cardboard stereotypes she would almost exclusively portray after the premiere of Pillow Talk the very next year, she's definitely a preview of coming attractions.
Erica teaches a night course in journalism at a New York community college, and invites Jim Gannon (Gable), the tough-as-nails city editor at The Chronicle, to address her class. Jim, who never finished high school, sees little purpose in education, believing work experience to be far more valuable and enriching, and shoots Erica a blistering written rebuff. Outraged by his behavior, Jim's managing editor (Harry Antrim) demands he apologize to Erica in person, yet when he shows up at class, Jim—who expects Erica to be a wizened old spinster—finds himself dazzled by her comely appearance. She, in turn, mistakes him for a student, setting in motion a masquerade the smitten Jim is only too happy to perpetuate.
Jim, of course, quickly becomes the star pupil, amazing his professor with his aptitude and writing skills. Erica can't understand how someone with so little training can be so accomplished, yet she's so impressed with Jim's talent she offers to mentor him, and during their private tutoring sessions he tries to worm his way into her heart. Their ideals still clash, however, and Erica's literary collaboration with the freewheeling Dr. Hugo Pine (Gig Young) sparks some jealousy, but after an inordinate amount of give-and-take and take-and-give, the couple at last finds common ground.
Clocking in at two hours, Teacher's Pet overstays its welcome in an effort to add substance to its thin plot. Issues of truth and psychology, coupled with the characters' tireless efforts to impose their principles on each other, turns a cute love story into a drawn out debate, with each side grudgingly giving an inch here and a foot there before at last calling a truce. The exhausting bickering and introspection sucks any seeds of passion from the story, so it's not surprising the film foregoes the requisite fadeout kiss in favor of a chummier, Tracy/Hepburn-like ending—which doesn't quite work. Spence and Kate might have been able to pull it off, but in the hands of Clark and Doris, it looks like a cop out.
Still, Teacher's Pet contains some amusing moments and a few genuinely funny lines. (Although how the screenplay ever earned an Academy Award nomination is beyond comprehension.) Gable lays on the mugging a bit thick, but his weathered face produces a multitude of great expressions, from eye-popping incredulity to cocky smirks and painful cringes. He seems to enjoy returning to comedy (after a lengthy hiatus from the genre), and believably embodies a crusty newspaper editor. Day, one of Hollywood's most underrated and least affected actresses, files her usual perkily earnest portrayal (and sings the bouncy title tune), but seems a little intimidated working with The King. As a result, we never feel the same level of attraction from her as we do from him. Gable usually has little trouble pulling off May-December screen romances, but Day proves too frosty an icicle even for the studly Clark to melt.
Young received an Oscar nomination for his fine performance as the jilted boyfriend who helps Erica and Jim patch up their relationship. Although he doesn't appear until halfway through the movie, he makes up for lost time, milking a hangover to the hilt, and dispensing words of wisdom with a welcome sardonic edge. Quick glimpses of Jack Albertson and a young Marion Ross, as well as a novelty number from sexpot (and former Howard Hughes protégé) Mamie Van Doren, also spruce up the proceedings.
Yet despite all the talent involved, Teacher's Pet never makes the dean's list of film comedy. Like so many of Erica's students, it has potential, but remains maddeningly average.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: A pleasing black-and-white anamorphic transfer sports good gray level variance, fine contrast, and excellent clarity. A few nicks and a big ol' blotch disrupt the opening frames, but it's pretty smooth sailing from thereon in. Inky blacks and faint grain lend the image texture and warmth, despite rather flat cinematography by Haskell B. Boggs.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The mono track is clean and clear, with easily comprehendible dialogue and only the faintest hint of surface noise. With only a smattering of music, fidelity isn't much of an issue, but Day's title song and Van Doren's nightclub number sound solid and rich.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Layers Switch: 01h:01m:36s
Extras Review: How do you spell barebones? P-A-R-A-M-O… you get the picture. We love your transfers, Paramount; now, please give us some extras!
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsNo apples for Teacher's Pet. This tepid and far too preachy romantic comedy just barely makes the grade, and though it may please fans of Gable and Day, viewers expecting a bouncy lark will be disappointed. Paramount supplies a stellar black-and-white transfer but little else on this skeletal catalog release.
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