The Talk of the Town ★★★★

Part screwball comedy, part Capra-esque message movie but entirely wonderful, The Talk of the Town is classic Hollywood escapism with wit and charm of its star cast making up for a contrived plot.

Poor Jean Arthur has to choose between the debonair Cary Grant and an equally handsome, beard sporting Ronald Coleman, a situation that would torment any sane living being. The main function is to make audiences laugh and it achieves this quite frequently, if unevenly, whilst at the same time putting forward moral dilemmas in regards to what the law actually means and how it can be interpreted with or without subjectivity.

Grant, Coleman and Arthur are one of the most adorable trios I've ever seen on screen, respect, friendship and maybe more (Hays Code subtext!) blossoms between the two philosophically adverse men whilst an absentminded Arthur scurries about the house trying to keep them both happy and having two leading men on board means you're left guessing which one she'll choose right until the very end. African American actor Rex Ingram also appears in a not-so-stereotypical role, admittedly he is still playing a valet, but he gets sensitive treatment in several significant scenes.

Some of the tonal shifts from lighthearted whimsy to serious drama with darker undercurrents are uneven and at almost two hours it does run quite long but under George Stevens' sublime direction and craftsmanship it rarely falters. This is the sort of classy, sophisticated comedy that's rare in these days of crude gross-out gags and painfully unfunny scripted jokes—I was engaged, entertained and invested in the characters throughout.

Criterion Channel.