Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
I love Lucille Ball and agree she's among the most influential women of the 20th century, but the character of Lucy Ricardo tends to drive me up the wall. Here's Lucille Ball, the smartest, most talented, most resourceful dame in a cast of smart, talented, resourceful characters, and the whole premise is that she's the most untalented gal on the planet and a dingbat to boot. The dumber and klutzier she is, the more Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo loves her. The formula clearly works because 48 years after "I Love Lucy's" debut, the show is still on television every day and Lucy books and Mattel dolls continue to be best-selling items. Lucille Ball's long movie career continues to be underappreciated, but it is her wry, sharp performances in long-forgotten films that keep me returning to video shelves and late show listings in search of every movie she ever made.
Douglas Sirk's "Lured" a 1947 indie, features vintage work by Lucille Ball as Sandra Carpenter, a dance hall girl recruited as a private detective by Charles Coburn as Scotland Yard's Inspector Temple after a fellow dancer disappears. Although audiences remember Lucy as funny, but not necessarily beautiful, in "Lured" she is both. At 5'6" and 120 pounds, Lucy was statuesque enough to wear Elois Jenssen's revealing ball gowns and chic day wear with striking flair and William Daniels' black-and-white cameras were in love with her large blue eyes, fiery red hair and creamy complexion. Lucy's looks, which would have been splashily exploited if she had been less gifted as an actress, were invariably superfluous. She slips in and out of outfits without ritual or fuss and gets on with the job, whatever it is. In "Lured" it's trapping a homicidal maniac.
The cast is crammed with kinky red herrings galore, all but one of them entirely innocent, of murder at least. Lucy also has the tough job of playing opposite George Sanders in a rare romantic role as Robert Fleming, but by investing every scene with 200% of her energy, she makes their sequences together reasonably plausible. Lucy being Lucy, she can't help being funny even when she's in danger, but because most of the cast plays it straight, her uninhibited vitality gives "Lured" its narrative drive. Director Sirk would become famous at Universal in the 1950's for lavish melodramas which were even kinkier than "Lured" but Leo Rosten's screenplay, with a nod to Baudelaire, is still strong stuff for 1947. Kino recently remastered "Lured" so the video transfer is crisp, clear & highly recommended. If you just can't sit through the 1,000th re-run of the Vitameatavegamin episode, "Lured" is a treat no true Lucy fan will want to miss.
© 1999 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 5/5/99
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