Lucille Ball sparkles in... A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (1941)

Lucille Ball is one of my favorite actresses, although at this point, you're probably wondering "Who isn't your favorite?" To which I reply, "Oh, getting fresh, are we?" (Can you tell I just watched Gold Diggers of 1933?) Anyway, I'm such a fan of the glorious Ms. Ball, it's a guarantee that I will watch anything she was a part of, especially her films. She may not have thought they were much to write home about, mainly because she was the "Queen of the B's," but even if I don't like the material, I always adore her performance. Recently I caught the charming comedy A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob on TCM and I was so pleasantly surprised, I knew I should share it with you all.


We open at the Civic Opera House. A well-dressed man, his date, and his date's mother arrive, but they're stuck at the door while the man searches for their tickets. The man is shipping magnate Stephen Herrick (Edmond O'Brien), and he's much too meek to inform the usher that he has had the same opera box for five years and he should be directed to his seats immediately without all this embarrassment! At least that's what his fiancee's mother thinks. She instantly
reprimands the usher and they're taken to their box. However, when they get there, a terribly gauche family has stolen their spot. The family just wants to enjoy the opera, but Herrick's fiancee and her mother are outraged that a lower-class group would have the gall to sit in their box. The daughter of the family, Dot Duncan, repeatedly shows everyone their tickets, but things just escalate until Herrick and Co. are relegated to floor seats. Dot is angered that her paying for such nice seats is questioned, but then her gambling brother, Pigeon, lets it slip that he found the tickets and pocketed the money she gave him. She's mortified that she didn't earn the seats the right way, so much so that she accidentally drops her purse over the balcony and right on to Stephen's head. She and the family quickly leave. You can view most of the ordeal here.

The next day at his office, Stephen is still upset about the opera. His company partner, Abel Martin (Henry Travers), becomes downright giddy when he hears about the purse smacking him on the head. "It must run in the family!" he quips. Stephen is confused until Martin tells him that years ago in Panama, Stephen's mother had hit his father on the head with her purse when they first met. (This may be hinting at the film's outcome...) Stephen brushes it off and orders his secretary, Ms. Comstock, to come in, but he's informed that she just eloped and won't be coming back. So, another secretary is sent for, and guess who gets the job? Stephen is furious to see Dot, but she's finally able to get him to shut up long enough so she can apologize for last night. She explains that her parents love to listen to the opera, but they never got to see it in person, so for their anniversary she bought them tickets--well, thought she bought them. Stephen reluctantly gives her the job, and she proves to be very proficient.

Later that night, Dot tells her mom all about her exciting day. The Duncan household is very lively, with the father, Pokey, always smoking and listening to the radio and Pigeon playing games and scheming up angles. All of this is interrupted when George Murphy bursts in. Nicknamed Coffee Cup (I kid you not), he hands out presents and everyone is thrilled to see him. He's Dot's boyfriend, the gob of the title. They reunite and it's all very cute without being mushy. Coffee Cup goes
to visit Dot at work the next day, and his carefree, boisterous attitude intrigues Stephen. Dot and Coffee Cup go to lunch, but on their way back, they spot a sailor friend of Coffee Cup's named Ed. Coffee Cup, or CC as he will now be known, tells Dot that Ed can grow four inches right in front of their eyes. She doesn't believe it, so naturally Ed tries to prove it to her. Soon he's attracting a huge crowd, one that Stephen sees when he comes back from lunch with his fiancee, Cecilia. She keeps blabbering on about all the upcoming parties and dinners they have, but he's too engaged in what's going on with Ed. Cecilia leaves and Stephen quickly gets swept into the excitement. People start betting and when some declare Ed's trick is phony, a fight breaks out, leaving Stephen with a bruised jaw.

He wakes up in Dot's apartment, which at first jolts him. Some guy is playing the piano; Pokey is pounding on the radio to hear a western; CC and Pigeon are wrestling in preparation for a match CC has coming up; Mother is running in and out as she helps deliver a baby upstairs; another guy comes in and tells Stephen that if you whistle into the bottle he has, it'll whistle back. It's all very confusing for Stephen until Dot gets home: "That's Ivory [at the piano], he always shows up at meal time. Nobody knows where he came from. And this is Salty, he's a ventriloquist." Stephen needs to leave in order to make it to dinner with Cecilia, but he's completely charmed by the Duncans. They're so comfortable and loving with everyone, not to mention they know how to have fun. When Dot hears the newborn baby crying, she tells Ivory to play "Happy Birthday" and they all dance and celebrate. Stephen can't leave yet.

CC, Dot, and Stephen walk around the city as Stephen soaks in their easygoing nature. When he's worried that something is wrong with his pants, CC tells him to bend over right in front of a fancy restaurant's window, causing the patrons to stare in horror. Stephen is embarrassed until Dot says "Well, why worry? How does that gent know that you weren't doubled over with appendicitis?" CC: "Did he inquire about you?" Dot: "No, so why worry about him?" Stephen is amazed, but he turns down their invitation to go to a dance hall. He gets in a taxi to leave, but realizes he would much rather join his new friends. He buys a ticket to get on the dance floor, only to be declared the lucky holder of the 500th ticket for that evening. He's put on a stage and the MC tells him that all their winners have to perform some kind of talent. (Pretty weird requirement, if you ask me.) Stephen says he doesn't have any, so the MC just hands him a saxophone and tells him to play, which he does pretty badly. No one cares, though, and the party continues. They all dance until CC wants to blow the joint and go somewhere else. Dot protests that she has to work tomorrow, to which Stephen replies "Don't worry about that! Make up some silly excuse for your boss! He'll never know!"

Dot's interpretation.
At the office the next day, Stephen and Dot are putting pins on a large map to designate where company ships are. Dot falls off the steps and Stephen catches her, just as Cecilia walks in. Dot is smart enough to know to get out of there quickly. Cecilia explodes, but Stephen snaps that she's just like her mother, which "isn't a compliment." She leaves in a huff, demanding that he fire Dot. He won't, though, so he and Dot go back to pinning the map. Yet again, she falls, he catches, and Cecilia sees it.
The janitors' interpretation.
For the next day or so, Stephen tries to apologize. He sends flowers and calls, but Cecilia is having none of it. Late one night, he and Dot are still working at the office. In a funny bit, the night janitors are perplexed that these two are actually working and not using the office for...you know. Peeping through the office's keyhole, they think their suspicions are proven right when Dot shows Stephen the wrestling moves CC is using as they listen to his match on the radio. It's quite funny to see the janitors interpreting the moves on each other and figuring that it's all romantic. Stephen is clearly starting to fall for Dot, but she's still smitten with CC and oblivious to Stephen, especially since winning his match gave CC and Dot the money to finance their wedding.

About those winnings... Pigeon had betted against CC, losing all their money. Stupid Pigeon. Dot is upset, especially when CC offers to re-enlist. As she sobs, CC buys her ice cream from a street vendor and tells her that if she left him, it would "break every bone in his heart," which is weirdly sweet. Dot calms down and who can blame her? The man bought her ice cream, people. She's got her priorities straight. (I'm being 100% serious here.) In a stroke of luck, a raffle ticket CC submitted after Stephen had given it to Dot earlier in the film is picked as the winner. The prize? A baby grand piano. CC and Pigeon lug the piano through the streets, with CC excited that he can sell the piano to pay for the wedding. The piano gets away from them, though, and is destroyed by a truck. CC tries to raise money by employing Ed to do his stretching trick again, but he and Pigeon get arrested for inciting a riot. Stephen hears about it and bails the guys out. CC is feeling pretty low by now, so when he shows Stephen a $2 ring he bought in Burma, Stephen pretends like it's very valuable and offers to buy it, knowing that the money will go for Dot's own engagement ring. What a mensch.

Dot can tell CC is dreaming of the Navy...
Martin encourages his partner to go after Dot, but Stephen doesn't feel right about it. A message boy arrives with Cecilia's engagement ring--which he humorously throws at Stephen per her instructions--and reads a note saying the engagement is officially off. Martin is thrilled; now Stephen can definitely court Dot! Stephen refuses. Preparations start for the wedding, including Stephen being asked to be CC's best man. CC starts to have doubts, though, as he begins to reconsider
And he can tell she's thinking of Stephen.
re-enlistment. At the wedding rehearsal, CC realizes he lost Dot's wedding ring. As he and Pigeon search for it, one of CC's Navy friends hints that Stephen may have eyes for Dot. At first dismissing it, CC begins to wonder if his friend wasn't right. Dot is beginning to wonder, too...

CC tells the wedding party that he's going out to buy cigarettes real quick, but once he gets outside to his motorcycle, he tears off the streamers and the "Just Married" sign before he leaves. Soon Pigeon realizes that the groom has bailed; he and CC's sailor friends surmise that maybe CC jilted Dot to go re-enlist. After all, throughout the film, a Navy captain has been rather creepily trying to get CC for his crew, claiming that CC's one of the best gunners he's ever seen. Stephen chases after CC and the men fight about whose going to marry Dot, each encouraging the other to do it. Exasperated, Stephen knocks CC out and loads him in a cab. When it pulls up to the chapel, though, an unconscious Stephen is deposited with a note to Dot:


Lucille Ball had started at RKO in 1935 with the Astaire-Rogers flick Roberta. After A Girl..., she did four more films before moving to MGM. The producer of this movie was Harold Lloyd. Yep, that Harold Lloyd. This was his first time producing a picture that he wasn't starring in, and by all accounts he was active in production. One funny gag came straight from the 1929 Lloyd film, Welcome Danger. When Dot, Stephen, and Coffee Cup are leaving the dance hall, Stephen remembers he left
his hat. Earlier in the scene, a woman tried to dance with Stephen, but her flirtations scared him more than anything else. When he goes back for his hat, she keeps trying to no avail. Without any dialogue spoken, Stephen goes toward his hat and the woman drops a handkerchief in his path. Instead of picking it up like she wants him to, he keeps his eyes on his hat and uses his foot to flip her handkerchief up to her. He grabs his hat and she stands directly in his way. Without hesitation again, he gets around her by walking over a row of chairs. Stephen then stops at the door, smiles at the disappointed woman, and promptly leaves. It's a great moment, and very unexpected.


 
The big surprise of this movie for me was Edmond O'Brien. I only ever see him in dark material like D.O.A. and The Killers, but seeing his boyish grin and utter delight at the other characters was such fun. A Girl... was the third film he ever made. George Murphy was able to play someone a little different as well. Coffee Cup is brash, silly, and very vivacious, whereas Murphy usually seems to play guys who are a little more levelheaded and calm. He also was more known as a song-and-dance man, having performed with the likes of Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell (Broadway Melody of 1940), Judy Garland (Little Nellie Kelly), and Shirley Temple (Little Miss Broadway). Honestly, O'Brien and Murphy play two of the biggest sweethearts I've ever seen. Initially I thought they would be fighting over Ball, but they would rather see everyone else happy before thinking of themselves.

Lucy may not do lots of physical or outrageous comedy in this film, but she's still as lovable and fun as ever. And of course, she looks gorgeous. I always wonder why she was relegated to B-films when she never made a false move in her acting. She could have been the next Carole Lombard, and Lucy was certainly ready to be. Lombard was one of her best friends and a definite mentor--she even appeared to Ball in a dream when she was debating about doing I Love Lucy! I enjoy Ball's
movie career before she became the queen of TV, though, because she was so down-to-earth and witty. That's not to say she wasn't as Lucy Ricardo, but with her TV alter ego she made her voice higher and she wanted the character to be highly imaginative and have child-like qualities in a good way. When she was just Lucille Ball in the movies, she got to be cynical, snappy, and quick-witted, but still with a heart of gold. Also, in A Girl..., Dot has such a wonderful relationship with her family, something that I can always relate to. It only lasts for a few seconds, but one of my favorite pieces from this movie was when Dot comes home from work--she's in the hallway and yells "Hi ho, Silver!" before entering the apartment, letting her dad know she's about to come in. With a huge smile on his face, he positions himself so when she opens the door and pretends like she's shooting at him, he can "shoot" back at her. It's adorable.








A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob may be a mouthful to say, but it's a joyful and fun comedy. It has an easy charm to it, especially because of its cast. Plus, if you ask me, a Lucille Ball film is not to be missed. A Girl... isn't on YouTube or Netflix unfortunately, but definitely keep your eye out for it on TCM or whatever source you use to watch the classics.

With love,
Michaela

Comments

  1. I'm a huge Lucille Ball fan and I really like George Murphy as well, but I've never heard of this film before. I must definitely watch it ASAP.

    I also wanted to let you know that I've finally posted my response to your Liebster Award nomination, so if you'd like to check it out, here it is: http://back-to-golden-days.blogspot.pt/2015/07/the-liebster-award_1.html

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    Replies
    1. You'll love it! It's the definition of simplistic charm. Glad to see you've responded to the award! :)

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  2. The writing was truly well done, with a lot of clever setups for things to come. There was the lost ticket at the beginning with the same search for the lost ring for the wedding rehearsal. There was the setup of of the broken window at the pet store being fixed, which you knew when everyone returned was only going to get broken again and of course by the owner who was protecting it. And on and on. There was also the excellent but gentle slapstick that came through, just enough from the silent era, to complement the hilarity.

    The endearing part of this yarn was that despite all the spoofing, there was a sense genuineness, wonderfully portrayed by the actors that they shone through the characters. There was the celebration of the joy of the fellow tenant's baby's birth, the happiness shown to the boss having received good fortune and accolades for his pickin' up the sax. There are many examples like this throughout.

    The one thing that was most amazing out of all the buffoonery was there was a true sense of honor, respect and sincerity that is just not part of any contemporary movie. Perhaps it was because women were part of the war effort that the character of Dot was a strong, independent and competent women. There was never a neediness to her character, ever. Rather she and her sailor were practical about getting married and having a prosperous grapefruit farm. Even more delightful was that two men held the 'apple of their eyes' so much in esteem that they put her happiness and getting the right man before their own self interest, right up to the end. That seems pretty "advanced" thinking for a time when women just got the right to vote 20 years before.

    Perhaps the best part was the end, which I read in other reviews, has confused some people, being abrupt and not ending with the wedding. However this is perhaps the biggest laugh of all. During the movie, Dot checks CoffeeCup for tattoos and he metaphorically abstains and remains faitful to Dot's wishes. However, although she marries the "better" man, when the passions fly, the gob will always be there on her husbands chest. Ha Ha!

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    1. Thanks for such an insightful comment! You did a better review than I did, and I agreed with everything you wrote. This film is so good, it's a shame it isn't more well-known. I can't even find it on DVD!

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