One Touch of Venus (1948)
What’s a man to do when a statue looks just like Ava Gardner? Well, where Robert Walker is concerned, you do some daydreaming, kiss it and hope for the best. When the best turns out to be that same marble statue coming to life in the form of a flesh and blood Ava Gardner, Mr. Walker’s life is about to be turned upside down in this lighthearted comedy from Universal-International and director William A. Seiter.
Walker is employed in a low paying position at a large department store owned by playboy/art collector, Tom Conway, who has Eve Arden for a sarcastic secretary. Walker’s been setting up an Ancient Greece display and working on a set of curtains being used to unveil Conway’s latest acquisition, an authentic Greek statue of Venus, Goddess of Love. 1948? Ava Gardner sounds just about right to play the title role. It’s while setting up the display scene that Walker plants that kiss leading to a sultry Ava asking, “Was it you who kissed me?”
“A statue doesn’t just get up and walk away.”
Walker finds himself on the run from store detectives when Conway comes to the conclusion that his underpaid employee has somehow made off with his priceless marble statue. Though he may be on the run he has Ava in tow wearing her finest Greek outfit from designer Orry Kelly. Walker isn’t yet sure if he’s imagining things but he is having a hard time keeping the Goddess of Love from running her fingers through his hair. After all, he’s got a steady girl who works with him at the department store played by Olga San Juan, and she wouldn’t approve.
Comedy hijinks are ahead for Walker as he tries to keep Ava a secret from Olga while at the same time keep his best pal Dick Haymes from having him committed over his story of a statue coming to life. Why not put Ava up for the night in the model home within the department store. Sounds like a good solid plan until Conway is told of a woman found sleeping in the master bedroom. He’s on his way down with Miss Arden from his swank office to have this intruder arrested. That is until he sees Ava wrapped in silk sheets looking every inch a Goddess. Seriously, you must have seen that play on words coming. Ava once again delivers a kittenish oh so sexy performance constantly pawing at and looking suggestively at Walker’s innocent character in her attempts at seduction.
Of course Conway goes from his irritable self into his playboy alter ego when he orders Arden and Olga to see that a woman of Ava’s beauty be dressed to the nines and prepped for dinner and a night on the town. Conway might be in for an ego damaging letdown when Ava is more interested in Walker.
There’s music in the air and Ava’s Venus will sing a couple of numbers that seem to put most anyone within hearing distance into a warm romantic feeling. This includes Walker’s gal Olga and his best buddy Dick. Well, Walker has Ava to think about now so in the end I don’t think he’ll mind. As a matter of fact when this 82 minute time filler winds up he’ll have a surprise awaiting him once the Gods decide what to do with Ava’s Venus.
Ava Gardner in the role of Venus is an obvious choice but after seeing Frank Tashlin’s name as the credited screenwriter I couldn’t help but think this might have been better served as a Bob Hope farce or a Jerry Lewis outing in a couple of years. With all due respect to Mr. Walker I just didn’t find him right for the material and I found the comedy is far too often forced. If Hope wasn’t available and as Lewis wasn’t quite yet on the scene how about Donald O’Connor? Tashlin worked with both comedians a number of times. Among his titles with Bob are The Paleface movies and some of his duets with Lewis include Cinderfella, The Geisha Boy and Rock-a-Bye-Baby.
Ava was between Noirs at this juncture of her career which had begun taking off after 1946’s The Killers. Venus came out between Singapore and The Bribe. The latter film was used extensively in the Steve Martin/Carl Reiner satire, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. On Walker, his career was far too short. He’d pass away at just 32 years of age in 1951. Probably best remembered for his role in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, Walker’s final film, My Son John, would be released posthumously in 1952.
According to the trivia section over at the IMDb, the film had originated as a stage play with Mary Martin and that silent film legend, Mary Pickford, had at one time owned the screen rights. Also that when Ava was cast a sculptor was called in who unveiled a totally nude life sized statue of Ava/Venus. One can’t help but wonder where that piece of Hollywood history ended up. With Ava on board it’s also interesting to note that in 1945 when the film was in it’s early preproduction stages and Mary Martin was attached, so was Ava’s eventual hubby, Frank Sinatra.
This proved to be a first time viewing for yours truly and who says DVD’s are dead? Don’t ask my co-workers at the office because most of them will raise their hands. Anyway it’s thanks to Olive Films for offering me up a chance to see this one. Happened to come across this one that I wasn’t really all that familiar with and while it’s no classic it’s a definite must for those of us who get swept up in Ava’s beauty.