Temperamental saloon singer Freddie Jones, jealously shoots at her cheating boyfriend Blackie but mistakenly hits Judge Alfalfa J. O'Toole's honorable behind, forcing her to skip town under the guise of a schoolteacher.
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Preston Sturges', a fine director/writer whose career was too short, prime period (1940-1944) made for one of the best and most consistent golden years/prime periods for any director in my view. One where seven very good to masterpiece films in a row were made close to each other, in this case 'The Great McGinty', 'Christmas in July', 'The Lady Eve', 'Sullivan's Travels', 'The Palm Beach Story', 'The Miracle of Morgan's Creek'and 'Hail the Conquering Hero'. Even the films of his not made during this period were still watchable ('Unfaithfully Yours' actually being great) , though a few were disappointing by his standards.
'The Diary of Major Thompson' was his final film and while it is a watchable and semi-interesting one in its own way, it is like 'The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend' and 'The Great Moment' in that it is disappointing and quite sad by Sturges standards. The main reason to see it is if one is trying to see all of his films or as many as possible. Certainly don't think 'The Diary of Major Thompson' is that bad, it is not a disaster, but can see why it was/is one of the worst received Sturges films critically because too many areas fall well short.
Beginning with the good things, Jack Buchanan is remarkably well cast in the lead role in what was also his final film. It is very sad to see him at the end of his career in not the best physical shape due to illness (he sadly succumbed to spinal cancer not long after), but he has lost none of his debonair charm. Martine Carol also sparkles delectably. 'The Diary of Major Thompson' is a pleasing looking film, a warm nostalgia being evoked effectively. The music has the right amount of whimsy and fits well.
In terms of writing, this is a long way from prime Sturges to put it lightly, but there are amusing moments that do show some wit and sophistication that were not there in other lesser Sturges films (namely 'The Great Moment').
However, it did feel like Sturges was not interested in making the film and had lost his passion and energy in making and writing films, instead putting them into other things (such as restaurant running). The rest of the cast fail to make an impression, and they are not really to blame here. They are completely wasted by not only having very little to do but also anybody who has had the misfortune of watching the American dubbed version will despair at how disastrously crude the dubbing is.
Despite saying that there are amusing moments that do show wit and sophistication, they don't come consistently. Too much of the humour feels fatigued and contrived, some may not always find it tasteful, so there are glimpses of Sturges' comedic touch but more often than not it felt like the script was written by someone else. Did not mind that the story was episodic, which is not always a bad thing, did mind that it felt too much like a series of events cobbled together with very little energy in momentum or grace.
On the whole, a semi-failure by Sturges standards albeit an interesting and watchable one. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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