Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1948)
Lucille Ball stars here in a film that almost seems like a training film for her eventual role as Lucy Ricardo.
This Columbia production sets her up from the opening scene as a klutz. She’s a secretary in training who isn’t anywhere near the top of the class. She can’t type, breaks pencils during dictation and isn’t all that good with the phone either. In other words she is perfect to front for William Holden and his bookie operation that doubles as a real estate firm.
Holden gets more than he bargains for when he finds out she is the niece of the local magistrate and has the assistant D.A. as a part time boyfriend. On top of that she has a heart of gold and gets Holden’s real estate “front” into a land developing deal that causes no end of trouble when he loses a 10-1 long shot to former lover Janis Carter and has to come up with 50 grand to pay the bet off. Time for his accountant Frank McHugh to skim some money off the real estate firm and “fix” the books.
Lucille has so much in common with her television alter ego here. She’s full of good intentions but can’t help fumbling the ball and causing havoc to all those around her. Naturally Holden’s heel has a heart and it just might be melting as he looks at the famous red head and sees what his crooked scheme is doing to her and her loved ones. I won’t be laying bets off to those who think they might be getting together at the fade out.
It’s pretty much a standard formula here from writer Frank Tashlin who specialized in comedy and went on to direct a number of Jerry Lewis features. The film is directed by one time Warner Brothers work horse Lloyd Bacon.
Frank McHugh and James Gleason are well suited to the roles of Holden’s business partners who bumble their way through the film allowing Holden to play straight man.
There’s a rather racy line here that surprised me. Usually the “code” watchdogs would have it deleted from the script. When Holden places a call to ex-lover Carter, her servant takes the call and looking to cover for her holds the phone and asks her, (it’s) “Dick, are you in?” (Holden’s character). Her reply is hilarious as she smiles, “I’m always in for Dick.” I have no idea how that one slipped through!
Enjoyable film that turns up on TCM occasionally and gives us a chance to see both stars before they hit the big time. DesiLu productions was just around the corner and Holden was about to be launched into the “A” category thanks to Billy Wilder and Sunset Boulevard.