Thursday, August 1, 2013

Maisie Goes to Reno (1944)

Maisie Goes to Reno is the eighth of ten films in the Maisie series. This is the first time I have ever sat through one of the films and the first time I have seen Ann Sothern in a film. I was expecting this to be an overly cute and overly screwy film and I was pleasantly surprised how truly funny and enjoyable it was.
            Maisie Ravier (Sothern) works in a war factory. As she walks in the factory all the guys whistle at her. Maisie is nervous, jumpy, and tired. She goes to see the doctor and he can clearly see she is exhausted and gives her two weeks off advising her to take a vacation. Maisie’s old band leader Tommy Cutter tells her he and his band are heading out to Reno for a gig and asks her to come along. The only thing is she has to find her way to Reno herself.
            Maisie goes to the bus station. All the tickets to Reno are sold out for the next three weeks. An older woman gives Maisie her ticket but tells Maisie that she thinks she should go back home to her husband and work things out like she is doing. A soldier named Sgt. Bill Fullerton saw the whole exchange with the tickets. Maisie recognizes him from when they were in college and he was on the football team. Bill tells her he is married to a beautiful girl whose family has a lot of money and she never told him because she wanted someone to fall in love with her not her money. Somehow someone told Bill his wife had a lot of money and she became upset. He left to fight the war and now she wants a divorce. He found out that someone has been blackmailing his wife trying to get to her money saying that Bill keeps writing letters asking for money which he never has. Maisie gives Bill her ticket. Just before he can get on the bus an MP tells him that his division is about to head out and they have to leave together. Bill gives Maisie her ticket back along with a letter to his wife.
            In Reno, Maisie meets Flip (John Hodiak). He works at the hotel and knows where she can find Gloria. Flip and another man keep telling Maisie they can take Bill’s letter to Gloria personally. Maisie never lets go of the letter and Flip winds up taking her down to the house he knows Gloria is staying at outside of town. Maisie is let into the house and meets a woman who tells her she is Gloria. Maisie hand the woman the letter and tells Maisie Bill is still asking her for money. Maisie is upset to hear that she helped a no good man and leaves. The woman is really named Wini Ashburn, she goes upstairs to the real Gloria (Ava Gardner). Wini and two other men have been blackmailing Gloria. They have someone writer her letters that are supposed to be from Bill. When Maisie gets back to the hotel she calls Bill and tells him she is mad at him for making her give the letter to Gloria when he lied to her about wanting money.
             Flip takes Maisie out to his place in the woods. She likes Flip but is not too sure about him. She wonders why he is not fighting. She thinks he has a wife and four kids somewhere. Flip lets her know that he was wounded in action he is not married or a draft dodger.
            Back at the hotel Maisie and Flip are at lunch in the dining room. She sees Wini and thinking she is really Gloria goes up to the table. After getting identities straight she tells the Gloria about going to the house the night before. Gloria says that the papers have been after her so the make things easier and to screen the people that come by she has Wini pretend to be her. The manager of the hotel thinks Maisie is being a nuisance asking Gloria all these questions. He demands Maisie to wait by his office so they can speak. While waiting for the manager she sees a man named Clave on the phone and realizes that he talking to Pelham the man who was sitting with Gloria.
            Maisie senses there is something funny going on. She decides to help Bill get Gloria back and hilariously does whatever she has to do to get to the truth. Everything she does is too hysterical to give away. Just know that with some help she manages to get Bill and Gloria back together and that she winds up with Flip.
            Ann Sothern was hilarious. I had only ever seen her in photographs before this film.  I did not know what to expect with Sothern. From the photographs I have seen of her she looked like she was a serious actress I never thought she would have this high voice and be really funny. From this film I gather that Maisie was supposed to be a typical American woman who was doing her part for the war effort by working in a factory and was always willing to help someone out with their troubles. I was dying laughing when Sothern sang and performed the song Panhandle Pete. She looked like she was so bored and could care less her face was so straight and sarcastic looking.  I would not mind at all seeing Sothern in either another Maisie film or any of her other films. This was one of Ava Gardner’s first films… well actually I should say one of her first billed films. Before this MGM had no idea what to do with her and just cast her as an extra. Gardner was stunning. If I was an audience member in 1944 and saw this film I would want to see more of Ava Gardner. I would have written to the studio or the newspapers or left a comment at the theaters that I really liked her and thought she was beautiful. Gardner’s acting was very good but you can see she was still a little insecure and a bit held back. John Hodiak I had only seen in The Harvey Girls besides this and he was not very nice in that. It was weird to see him be so nice and not a cowboy. This was also one of Hodiak’s first starring films.

            Maisie Goes to Reno was hysterical. From the moment it started I was hooked. Maisie is what I imagine if Nora Charles got her own film only Nora would be a bit more sophisticated and put together. Maisie Goes to Reno was just the right amount of funny, cute, and silly without being overwhelming. Unfortunately the film is not available on DVD or on Youtube. I caught this some time ago on TCM and recorded it. Definitely watch Maisie Goes to Reno if the channel ever airs it again.