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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952)

Rating

[3.0]

Reviews and Comments

Poor Charles Coburn. He was a celebrated character actor, but in Has Anybody Seen My Gal?, one of the few times, if not the only time, he landed the lead role, he was billed third, behind Piper Laurie and Rock Hudson, whose roles are comparatively small.

At any rate, Has Anybody Seen My Gal? is a surprisingly amiable comedy, due exclusively to Coburn's presence. He plays a millionaire set on leaving his fortune to the family of the woman he loved (but who refused his offer of marriage once upon a time in favor of another man). He doesn't know the family, though, and is convinced by his advisors to visit the family and find out if they are deserving of it. If you're predicting Coburn will naturally hate them at first but will eventually be won over, you're wrong, and that's a large part of why this comedy is so endearing. He loves them, and the story begins there.

As far as its characters go, this film shoots low. The millionaire is a sufficiently depicted character, but the others are all cut-outs, defined just enough to be identifiable as the typical American family and no more. The mother of the household is the film's weak link, exhibiting an unreal -- and therefore aggravating -- shallow callousness that defies description. The father is, in turn, powerless and invisible. The youngest of the family is an entertainingly spunky little girl, but the teenagers are generic.

Yet as I say, Coburn makes this movie. Consider a scene where he is trained to be a soda jerker -- all the predictable slapstick mishaps occur, but Coburn's reactive dialogue makes them hilarious.

There's something else going for it, too, namely the intrinsic joy of its plot. It's exciting a to see good people suddenly in a position to be pulled from the blue out of their financial struggles. The energy this film builds out of that anticipation goes a long way. And, I must add, the film's conclusion is unexpected (yet obvious in hindsight) and surprisingly satisfying. Kudos to the writers for doing it right when it could so easily have gone wrong.

In short, Has Anybody Seen My Gal? is a mixture of ups and downs, from a filmmaking standpoint. But as a light, "feel-good" comedy, I recommend it wholeheartedly.

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