No backtalk or Judge Daryl Loomis will have to smack you with his fish.
After a kiss like that, you're gonna have to marry me!
It was truly a different world in the early days of sound that an actor like Spencer Tracy (Inherit the Wind) would make a viable lead in a romantic comedy. That's nothing against Tracy, but we don't like puffy, gruff everymen like we once did; Zac Efron is no everyman and thank goodness for that. Today, we'd rather have that pretty face than the spectacular talent of someone like Tracy, who could play everything from a lawyer to a beat cop to Thomas Edison and get away with it through his unique charm and seeming ability to have chemistry with anyone. His comic timing and rapport with Joan Bennett (Scarlet Street) can even make an idiotic little trifle like Me and My Gal better, which is saying something given how dumb the writing is.
Danny Dolan (Tracy) is a cocky young flatfoot, a real up and comer, whose brain is the only thing smarter than his mouth and who only has eyes for Helen (Bennett), a wisecracking counter girl at the dock cafe. She's pretty sure she likes him, too, but there's a hitch. Her sister, Kate (Marion Burns, Born to Be Bad), while newly married, was recently the moll of local gangster Duke Castenega (George Walsh, The Bowery), who is now in jail. Kate assures Helen that it's over, but as soon as Helen decides to take the plunge with Danny, Duke jumps the joint and, where does he head? That's right, Kate's place, just at the moment when Helen brings Danny to meet Kate and her father, a quadriplegic who can only communicate by blinking in Morse Code.
The main plot of Me and My Gal really isn't so bad and it makes for an easy entrance in the screwball comedy we find here. The problem is the jokes are terrible, go on too long, and are repeated way too much. I can admit that a drunk man hitting a cop with a fish is funny once or twice, but by the seventh or eighth smack over the course of these eighty minutes, it's a little much. One character parroting everything another says is about as funny as when your little brother does it for an hour, but that's the extent of what Bert Hanlon (A Slight Case of Murder), as an idiotic detective, is given to do.
There is one bit that is pretty clever, though. Just as the couple is getting together, they are sitting together, cuddling, when Danny makes a joke about that movie, "Strange Inner Tube, or something," in which the lovers say one thing, then narrate themselves thinking another, which is exactly what then starts happening. The reference is to Strange Interlude, which came out earlier that year, showing how much quicker production turnaround was back then, but which is also just an excellent bit of referential humor.
I don't so much credit writer Arthur Kober (The False Madonna), though, as I do the performances from the two leads and, especially, the chemistry between them. Tracy and Bennett would make four pictures together between here and 1951's Father's Little Dividend, where that would show up equally as older husband and wife as it does between them as young lovers. Without these two, Me and My Gal would most definitely not work, but with them, it does reasonably well.
Director Raoul Walsh (The Thief of Bagdad) puts in his always reliable work to keep things running, as well. He had directed some fifty pictures before Me and My Gal and would direct some fifty afterward, in every conceivable genre (though I don't think he ever made a horror movie), so he knew full well when to take control of the action and when to let the actors carry the load. Sometimes, when say there's a scene with George Walsh, the director's dreadfully cast brother, it's all very awkward and it's clear that Walsh is doing the best he can with his available resources. When Tracy and Bennett are together on screen, his only job is to call out action and cut. Thankfully, those two have most of the dialog, so while I can't say that I'm a fan of the movie as an overall picture, there are far worse ways to spend a little time.
Me and My Gal comes do DVD via Fox's on-demand service, 20th Century Fox Cinema Archives, in exactly the kind of package I expected to find. The image looks fine, without much dirt or damage, a decent grain structure, and nice looking contrast. The mono sound is mostly free from noise and dialog is clear, though there are a couple of instances of the audio peaking in the movie, but I figure that has to do with the still relatively rudimentary recording devices of the era.
With Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett going at it, there's no question that there are things people will love about Me and My Gal. Personally, though, the broad slapstick and repetitive jokes are too much to take, meaning that I'll walk away loving the lead performances with the knowledge that I'll probably never watch the movie again.
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