Heavenly Body The (1944)
Directed by Alexander Hall (Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)) adapted by Harry Kurnitz (What Next Corporal Hargrove? (1945)) with a screenplay co-written by Walter Reisch (Titanic (1953)) this comedy serves as proof positive that a good script is required for good comedy. Unfortunately even though the film boasts a recognizable cast including William Powell Hedy Lamarr James Craig Fay Bainter Henry O’Neill and Spring Byington it fails to deliver many laughs and plays like an unhumorous version of Ernst Lubitsch’s That Uncertain Feeling (1941).
Powell plays a busy astronomer whose lonely unsatisfied gorgeous wife (Lamarr) of two years seeks an astrologer (Bainter) along with her neighbor (Byington) to find happiness. Lamarr does a pretty good job playing the airheaded woman (and half of the film’s double entendre title looking great in a silk nightgown) a brunette playing a stereotypical blonde (much like Merle Oberon did in the Lubitsch film) but the director seems to have thought having Powell was enough to generate laughs even with a weak script; it wasn’t! Craig plays a well traveled news correspondent who’s currently an air raid warden that doesn’t appear until the film’s middle third; just in time to make Lamarr believe that Bainter’s prediction of a future love interest from afar has come true. Byington plays a busybody neighbor and no friend to Powell’s that fuels Lamarr’s interest in Bainter and her astrology. O’Neill plays Powell’s exasperated boss upset that the astronomer’s interest in his comet discovery has waned because of the turmoil in his marriage just as they’re about to announce it to the World.
Powell’s involved in some slapstick scenes one with a garden hose and another dancing with Russians when his character experiences getting drunk for the very first time (interesting twist given his Nick Charles character in The Thin Man (1934) series) but the first scene comes across as mean and the second falls flat literally. The writers must have thought that reusing screwball staples like revolving servants (the maid is fired and replaced with a new one almost daily; naturally Connie Gilchrist plays one of these) and a cute talented dog would be funny as well. Craig gives a typically wooden performance and not at all believable as a “man of the world” though the role required little (other than his Clark Gable-like looks) more than his presence for the purposes of this story. A now dated device is used to besmirch Bainter’s character near the end; she’s a ration hoarder. And of course a happy ending for the estranged couple is predictably delivered.