Mr. Lawford’s back…
It’s always nice to unearth a treasure or two in the movie blogging business, and it can be fun to find some turkeys, too. Then there are those movies that straddle both sides, like 1952’s You For Me. A straight-ahead rom com, it’s nothing if not ambitious.
The tone of this movie is set right away: Tony Brown (Peter Lawford) is out hunting and gets shot in the hiney, only the movie can’t say that outright because Production Code. “Very sensitive parts,” if you please. Tony’s extremely indignant at all of it, especially once he starts getting shots. The nurses don’t have much sympathy for him either, because Tony’s emergency made them miss the annual Nurses’ Dance.
Particularly vocal is Katie McDermad (Jane Greer) who complains so much the superintendant tells her she’s not only dismissed but blacklisted from the nursing profession. Katie is mad, but she still goes to the Nurses’ Dance. She does have a date with a doctor, after all.
She’s not completely down and out, though, because the movie’s Dr. McDreamy, aka Dr. Jeff Chadwick (Gig Young) plucks her out of the dance and tells her she can have her job back if she talks Tony into giving the hospital money. Tony is a major donor to the hospital and the funds are sorely needed. Long story short, Tony is easy to persuade, and he and Katie get acquainted over a case of champagne Tony’s had smuggled into the hospital. By the end of the night, neither one is in any pain whatsoever and they’re both smiling dreamily.
Katie stumbles back to the dance feeling a little tipsy and very happy. Jeff is satisfied and suggests Tony might make a good husband. By the next morning Katie is not a bit hungover and she’s got her job back. Well, she’s got her job back on the condition that she pay a visit to Tony, who she finds arguing in his room with his ex-wife, Lucille (Rita Corday). The hospital’s in kind of a spot, because Lucille’s a gold-digger, and if she gets what she wants the hospital won’t get Tony’s money.
Jeff and Katie go to Tony’s house the next day, and it’s clear that Tony was expecting Katie and only Katie. Seeing dollar signs, Jeff pushes Katie towards Tony, but he ends up not being as into his scheme as he was in the beginning. Gee, who saw that coming? Before that, though, Tony and Katie start dating, which means Tony meets Katie’s very down-to-earth family. They’re a nice bunch, but the timing of Tony’s first visit is a little off. For one thing, the McDermad living room furniture needs reupholstering and an errant spring keeps jumping up and hitting Tony’s “very sensitive parts.”
Things get even more awkward when Katie gets a call saying Tony has been hurt, and she rushes down to the address she’s been given. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a hotel room, and when Tony shows up, he and Katie barely have time to look awkwardly at each other before a guy with a camera pops in the door and snaps a picture. One guess who sent him.
Meanwhile, Dr. McDreamy, er, Jeff, warms up even more, and the head nurse catches Jeff and Katie kissing. The head nurse is a tough nut to crack, but even she’s surprised. “It’s a matter of hormone activity,” says Jeff. Mmmmkay.
Naturally, the eternal question with a movie like this is: Who will Katie choose in the end? Or will she drop both guys?
You For Me is a cute movie that starts out trolling (did Tony really get shot in the butt?), but about halfway though I pretty much checked out because it loses its punch. Maybe it’s the ex-wife dragging things down, I don’t know, but something about the film definitely does not work.
Audiences in 1952 didn’t buy it, either, and the film made a paltry $1.3M at the box office, placing 194th out of the two-hundred thirty-six films released that year. The November 15, 1952 Motion Picture Herald said:
Yeah, this doesn’t seem exactly optimistic, does it?
The movie didn’t help anyone who was involved with it, not even Jane Greer, who, according to TCM, desperately wanted to be more than a B-lister. Peter Lawford, our man of the weekend, didn’t get much of a boost either, despite the movie inexplicably being marketed to young people because teen idol.
Watching the movie nowadays, it’s not hard to see why it tanked in 1952. The actors bring it, the premise is good if overdone, and the pacing is competent. I think the problem is it gets bogged down in flotsam. The ex-wife arc is kind of half-hearted when it could have been accomplished with a line or two, or even gone whole hog and made into a source of comedy.
There’s also an extremely minor subplot with Katie’s brother-in-law, Frank (Paul Smith), begging Tony for money to start a business that’s just annoying. It has no reason to exist except to give Tony more time to interact with Katie’s family, but all it does is make both Tony and Frank look kinda dopey. Well, at least until the end, which I won’t ruin.
Plus the Jeff-Katie-Tony triangle is underwritten. These three characters are rarely all together, and any rivalry schtick is just kinda “meh” (Moon Over Miami did it so much better). There’s just so much they could have done with this aspect of the story but it just isn’t there.
The other thing is that MGM’s production values took a bit of a slump during the fifties, not only because they were forced to give up their theater holdings, but the way many actors’ contracts were written shoehorned them into agreeing to stay at the studio until they got a big payout, and in the case of MGM, it often translated into them starring in really bad movies. Some, like Cyd Charisse, stuck things out. Others, like Esther WIlliams and Clark Gable, chose to bolt.
Lawford fell somewhere in the middle; he was dropped from MGM after two more box office failures and had to reset his acting career. It didn’t take much for him to bounce back, though, because he was soon to marry Patricia Kennedy and join the Rat Pack, which gave him a whole new coolness.
It might be lackluster, but You For Me isn’t a complete waste of time because it’s fun seeing Peter Lawford during his later years at MGM.
For more of the distinguished Peter Lawford, please see Kristen at Hoofers and Honeys. Thanks for hosting, Kristen–this was fun! Thanks for reading, all, and I hope to see you tomorrow for a review of a unique 9-11 documentary…
You For Me is available on DVD from Amazon.
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Williams, Esther, with Digby Diehl. The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.