A Likely Story

A Likely Story (H.C. Potter) is another RKO comedy of the studio's genre template: one-half knowing sophisticated screwball, one-half hokum romance. In the column of the former, the film toys with sending up advertising language (when a character contemplates jumping off a bridge, a giant neon spectacular urges, "Do It Now") and with destabilizing the official patriotism of the war years. In the latter column, the narrative retreads the drama of the small-town Wisconsin girl come to the Big City to make it as an artist; the ideological side chosen is not clear-cut, but at the very least.

What's especially interesting, though, is that A Likely Story adds a social problem angle to the light comedy. Bill Baker (Bill Williams) is a shell-shocked ex-vet whose spells drive the plot's machinations. Driven to suicidal tendencies by a misunderstood medical diagnosis, he gets taken in by the artist (Barbara Hale) and her younger guardian brother. (Again the orphaned and missing family!) At one point, looking for his shoes, Bill makes reference to The Lost Weekend: "Once I saw a picture where a man hid a bottle on a string outside the window." Indeed his shoes were hidden in the overhead light.

Tonally, the film is not a problem film, but neither is it a send-up like Sullivan's Travels. Rather it seems to insert a filmmaking mode known to audiences as part of a generic mix. It's precisely the sort of find that continues to thrill me with the 1947 project – the discovery of a film directly related to my object of study yet one previously not canonized as part of it.


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