Confidentially Connie (1953)
This energetic comedy from the studio era features the well matched Van Johnson and Janet Leigh as a young married couple expecting their first child. Van is working as a college teacher and the couple are barely making ends meet (perhaps I should spell that meat). Life could be so much easier if Van would make up with his cattle baron father played by Louis Calhern and take over the family business.
The film opens in the doctor’s office where Janet is having her third month checkup. While sitting in the waiting room chatting with one of my favorite character actresses Kathleen Freeman, Janet’s puffing away on her cigarette! How time’s have changed. The Doc suggests she do her best to eat plenty of meat over the course of her pregnancy.
It’s not so easy to frequent Walter Slezak’s butcher shop on Van’s wages so it looks like Janet is going to have to give up her cigarette allowance to at least get some lamb chops. Really, I’m not making this up. Janet begins to put pressure on her hubby to play the game of politics at college and convince the Dean, Gene Lockhart to award him a promotion he is being considered for. This would secure him a higher wage and their butcher shop troubles would be over.
Meanwhile back at the ranch………
Louis Calhern is sitting down to a round of steaks with the cowhands and even has a one for the dog. “Teachings for women who can’t find husbands,” he declares and sets out to make amends with Van and brings his son and Janet home to help run the family business.
The screwball comedy genre goes into action when life long meat eater Calhern sees that Janet isn’t getting enough meat to give him a healthy grandson. He promptly makes an arrangement with butcher Slezak to sell his offspring meat at a largely discounted price of which he’ll make up the difference.
“That girl has got to have meat!”
Problems arise when word gets out to the faculty that the price of meat has drastically fallen causing a price war among local butchers. Slezak quickly realizes he may be out of business if Calhern doesn’t make up the difference in price.
It’s going to be a roller coaster ride between the warring father and son over the right path that Van should take in life. Janet stands back and plays referee while the cast of character actors do their best offering solid support as one might expect from the likes of Lockhart and Slezak.
At 72 minutes this is a fluffy time filler featuring an amusing dream sequence or nightmare if you prefer belonging to Calhern. It concerns his fears that Janet is eating far too much fish and vitamins and not enough beef.
Calhern in one of his later roles here essays a Texas cattle baron just fine. Good guy or bad, Louis always adds something worth while to pretty much any film he appeared in.
One bit of trivia I learned here was that Canadian Gene Lockhart’s wife Kathleen was an actress as well. She stars here as his on screen wife. The two would be married from 1924 up until his death in ’57.
On the home front I should make my own family sit down and watch this tale of steaks and lamb chops. You see, I still enjoy a good piece of beef while the rest of my brood have all turned vegetarian leaving me standing alone at the bar-b-cue.
I snagged a copy of this thanks to the Warner Archive Collection if you are so inclined to have a look at this Leigh-Johnson-Calhern teaming.