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The Marrying Kind

Judy Holliday's follow-up to her breakout performance in 1950's Born Yesterday should have set her on the path to becoming one of the Hollywood elite. Instead, The Marrying Kind (1952) — a sentimental drama about a couple in the midst of divorce — showed off the acting chops that made her the toast of the New York stage, but failed to match her inimitable comic gifts. Holliday stars as Florence Keefer, who has initiated divorce proceedings from husband Chet (Aldo Ray). A counseling session in a judge's chambers sets in motion the script's framing device, as the blue-collar New Yorkers recall the events of their troubled, tumultuous matrimony. The duo meet about as cute at it gets, with Chet and a pal playing a fun gag on Florence and one of her girlfriends in Central Park. Courting and marriage soon follow, after which Chet becomes concerned with their financial future while throwing sacks in a post office mailroom. As Chet sees it, you don't have to be smart all the time to get rich, you only have to be smart for about ten seconds — just long enough to invent some simple, yet paradigm-shifting, consumer innovation. Soon he invents ball-bearing roller-skates, but he fails to win financial backing from a wealthy relative, and in a matter of months somebody else cashes in on the exact same fad. Bad luck befalls the couple once again when they are selected for a radio contest and Chet comes up with the wrong answer for a name-that-tune trivia challenge. Florence briefly considers flavored postage-stamp adhesive, but it's clear that the Keefers are not meant to be a fabulously wealthy duo. And when a horrible tragedy befalls them, it also becomes clear that they have one of the worst habits of any married couple: They blame each other for their bad fortune. With a script by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, and none other than George Cukor behind the camera, The Marrying Kind has the sort of pedigree that marks the best of Hollywood's golden-age cinema. But while it's wonderful in certain moments, it's also a fairly torpid, and often shrill, domestic drama. The picture marks the feature debut of Aldo Ray, who would enjoy a substantial, if unspectacular, film career with his rugged good looks and sandpaper-rasp of a voice. Cukor captures the New York settings well, and one particularly inventive sequence utilizes an elaborate set to transfer an anxious, dreaming Ray from his bed directly onto a post office conveyor belt and into a massive mailroom (where he's far behind in his work and told the president is about to arrive). But for all of the nice small touches, the story itself can be difficult to absorb. It's hard to fault Holliday and Ray for their skill at portraying a frustrated, somewhat immature married couple plagued by doubt, jealously, and financial insecurity — it's another thing altogether to describe these very realistic sequences as light Hollywood entertainment. It's an experience akin to watching an episode of "The Honeymooners," but without any of the laughs, just the acrimony. And for Holliday, it's especially unfortunate — broadsided by HUAC allegations during the blacklist, she would appear in a handful of films before her untimely death in 1965. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of The Marrying Kind features a good full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) with monaural DD 2.0 audio — the source-print looks very good with only a hint of collateral wear and strong low-contrast detail, while the dialogue-heavy soundtrack is crystal clear. Keep-case.

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