Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ Susan Slept Here (1954)

Back when I was reveling in the luxury of having digital cable, I would sometimes catch a glimpse at a very strange scene on TCM. A dolled up Debbie Reynolds eating strawberries and mixed pickles. Together. Covered with cream. Why would anyone eat strawberries and pickles together? Was the character pregnant? Crazy? On a strange Hollywood diet? For years the image of Reynolds happily devouring strawberries and pickles together haunted me.

Strawberries and pickles?

 Yes, strawberries and pickles.

Strawberries and mixed pickles for breakfast or for an after-dinner snack.

It was only years later that I watched the movie with that infamous Strawberries and Pickles scene:
Susan Slept Here (1954)

Susan Slept Here (1954) is Dick Powell's last film. He plays Mark Christopher, a 35 year old ::snickers:: novelist and screenwriter who just won an Oscar at the Academy Awards. His Oscar statuette is the narrator of the film. No I'm not joking. He's the narrator of the film.

Mark is a pickle (perhaps with a strawberry on the side). He is currently experiencing a sort of writer's block. He's a bachelor and keeps a very rich fiancee, Isabella (Anne Francis) at a distance. His makeshift family includes his personal assistant Maude (Glenda Farrell), his gofer Virgil (Alvy Moore) and his maid Georgette (Maidie Norman). But he's missing one thing: a muse.

In comes Susan (Debbie Reynolds ). She's a 17 year old, underage delinquent who socked a soldier and is about to be jailed. The vice squad pities her as her mom is away and it's Christmas Eve. They pass her off to Mark (Dick Powell) to take care of just until Christmas and her sentencing is over. However, Mark finds his long-lost muse in Susan and he wants to keep her around a little longer. For inspiration of course. But it's problematic because she's 1) underage and 2) an unmarried female staying in a bachelor's home. Solution? Marry her! At least temporarily, so he can get his story and she can avoid jail time. They can always annul the marriage later.

::Spoiler alert::

So why strawberries and pickles? They are an odd pair. Just like Susan and Mark. They don't seem like they go together but for them it works. Susan is like the strawberry. A bit tart when you bite into it but it's all sweetness thereafter. Mark is like the pickle. Sour and wrinkled but enjoyable in a way very different from strawberries. And the combination of strawberries and pickles is one of the things that unite them. Because, as they discover in the end, they both really love strawberries and pickles, and each other.

::Spoiler alert end::

Did you know that the Catholic Legion of Decency banned the film because of it's title and subject matter? Watching it today one can't help notice how innocent it really is however at the time it did push some boundaries. And there is nothing I like better than a film that pushes some boundaries.

What does or does not happen in the bedroom is the crux of the story.

Fans of 1950s domestic style will fall in love with Mark's apartment.

 Just take a look at that Christmas tree!

No seriously. Take a look at that tree!

I really want this set. Breakfast server with lid, Grapefruit holders, toast trays, coffee carafe, ::sigh::

 This film is very trippy in the way that sometimes 1950s films are. Anne Francis' Isabella is given outlandish outfits and a lavish apartment that only someone very wealthy could afford.


Doesn't Isabella know that frowning will give her wrinkles?

Also, Susan has this very strange dream and we are delighted (or perhaps traumatized) by an odd dream sequence musical number.

Not quite Gold Diggers of 1933 but even an aging Dick Powell can pull it off.

Even my weirdest dreams aren't that weird.

I poke fun but this was a really enjoyable movie. One of the reasons is that it doesn't take itself to seriously. You'll also be hypnotized by all the color and the '50s design and wardrobe. 
If you are looking for a good rainy day movie to brighten your day and lift your spirits, I would recommend Susan Slept Here. If you need a snack to eat while you are watching it, I would stick with popcorn and NOT strawberries and pickles.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Movies selected are rented from Classicflix or purchased from Warner Archive, Classicflix or TCM. This series is not sponsored by Warner Archive.


Editor Bill said...

Ok. So why does she eat strawberries and pickles?

Mythical Monkey said...

One of my favorite guilty pleasures -- I watch it every time it shows up on TCM.

Raquelle said...

Hi Bill. THANK YOU so much for your comment. I had a whole paragraph about the strawberries and pickles written in my mind but they never made it to the post. I added it above (although it does contain a big spoiler).

Raquelle said...

Guilty pleasure is the perfect way to describe watching this movie! Glad you liked it too.

Laura said...

This is one I've seen! The Archive disc is beautiful -- for me this is worth watching just for the '50s set design -- that tree! that kitchen! (the clock and the mixer...) the Christmas cards on the mantel! I love your screen caps -- never noticed the floral design on Isabella's headboard before.

I love Dick and Debbie, love this crazy movie. :) Glad you had fun watching it too!

Best wishes,

MC said...

I thought this movie was so weird when I first saw it. I still think so, but it's also grown on me and is now a movie I watch and enjoy every Christmas. It's fun and really gorgeous to look at.

Isn't it hilarious that they try to pass Dick Powell off as 35? He looks more like he could be Debbie Reynolds' grandfather. ;)

Great review, thanks!

Andi B. Goode said...

I MUST see this film! And that dream looks tame compared to the weirdness of mine, to be honest haha
-Andi x

Rachel said...

I'd seriously contemplate this strawberry/pickles conundrum, but I'm too distracted by your gorgeous screencaps. Reynolds and Francis look seriously beautiful. Dick Powell doesn't seem to fit the part at all, but I'll have to check out the film to see for myself.

Jamie said...

I love those screen caps! Like you, I used to watch TCM... but I don't have it any more. (had to make a few sacrifices) doesn't mean I can't enjoy the occasional classic movie though :-)

Something about watching films from this era brings a sense of comfort, I don't know what it is, but they had a way of projecting comfort onto their audience. I'll check out this movie next chance I get!

By the way, I would absolutely LOVE IT if I could either interview you or give you a segment on my radio stream, (I sent you an email about this earlier) as people who listen to the kind of music there often dig classic films, it would be so nice if we had someone like you, who came on now & then to talk about classic films and her blog about them. :-)

I know this because I've spoken to a few people into that kind of music, TCM is kind of a common theme. (Don't worry, no pressure, I would hope it'd be kind of a fun thing to do for you.)

For me, I just watch the movies, I don't really know a whole lot about them. But, I like James Garner. (The Americanization of Emily is probably my favorite so far)

I've subscribed to your blog, via bloglines and yahoo, so I hopefully won't miss any of your future posts! (I really like your screen caps, technicolor is... magical!)

Keep up the good work! Thanks!


Malena said...

This is one of my favorite films of all time and it breaks my heart when people dismiss it as “a pedophile fantasy” (Gigi is another one that gets that label.) Of course Dick Powell looks old enough to be Debbie´s grandfather. He was old enough to be he grandfather, but I watched this film when I was fourteen and I believed in the romance, I thought they made such a lovely couple.
The story behind the strawberries and pickles. Susan´s Mom developed a craving for them when she was expecting. She continued to like the combo after she had Susan, and taught her daughter to enjoy it too.

Karen said...

Enjoyed your post, Raquelle! I've heard about this movie for many, many years, but never had an interest in checking it out until now. I had to laugh at you coveting the breakfast set -- I would knock somebody over for that radio in your screen cap right after the Oscar (not to mention those glasses Anne Francis is wearing)!!! Off-topic, I see you rent movies from Classicflix -- I just found out about them the other day. What do you think of them?

Raquelle said...

Oh yes! The Mixer. I totally forgot about that and I had meant to get a screencap of it too. Mark's kitchen is basically my dreak kitchen.

Raquelle said...

MC - I'm glad it's grown on you. It's a weird picture but a whole lot of fun. I agree that Dick POwell does not look at all like he could be 35 but he still had a bit of a baby face.

Raquelle said...

Andi - I think you would love it. Especially for the style. If you watch it, let me know what you think.

Raquelle said...

Rachel - You'd be surprised. Dick Powell's character is kind of a sour puss. He's not playing a young jovial character. So I think it suits him quite well. I really hope you'll watch the film and be hypnotized by it like I was!

Raquelle said...

Malena - I hope you don't think that I dismiss it as a pedo fantasy because I honestly don't. Around the 1950s and '60s there were a lot of established male stars, past their prime in age but still incredibly popular with movie audiences. And there were a lot of up-and-coming young starlets so inevitably the older gentleman and the younger ladies made movies together. I think to "fix" the age gap, they always had the younger woman chase the older man rather than vice versa. I can think of a few examples like Charade (older Cary Grant, younger Audrey Hepburn) and Bell, Book & Candle (older Jimmy Stewart, younger Kim Novak). And then sometimes it doesn't work out at all like in Ryan's Daughter when a much older Robert Mitchum is not enough for his young bride.

Also, back in the day young women were desperate to be grown up and do grown up things. We live in an age of twee and a lot of women are clinging on to their childhoods and teenage years. So a 17 - 35 age gap is much more severe today than it was back then.

Anyways, thanks for stopping by and sharing your appreciation for the film!

Raquelle said...

Jamie - Thanks for stopping by and for subscribing. Sorry to hear you are TCM-less too. Perhaps one day soon we'll both get our beloved channel back. Also I apologize for not responding to your email. I get anywhere from 10-20 email pitches a day and it's hard to for me to get to all of them. I'm planning a wedding right now and I find it hard to find time even to blog. I'm not sure I have time right now for an interview but please think of me in the future!

Raquelle said...

Karen - Throughout the whole movie I kept finding objects I wanted to steal! I'm glad you are willing to give the movie a try. It's fun to watch, especially if you are in the mood for a light movie with lots of bright colors and awesome 50s design.

Classicflix is great. My only complaint is that it's a lot slower in turn-around than Netflix. I live in the Northeast and Classicflix operates out of California so it takes a long time for me to get my films. However, their selection of films can't be beat. I can't afford to buy all the Warner Archive films I want to see so I rent them first from Classicflix and if I really love them, I buy them later. Also, Classicflix is a mom-and-pop operation (love to support indies!) plus they have really great customer service. Their blog is wonderful for keeping up-to-date with new classic film DVD & Blu-ray releases. Hope that helps!

Malena said...

Perish the thought! Raquelle, I never meant You! This is the first place I have found in the Web that treats this film with respect. But take a walk to the IMDB forum (just to mention one place) and hear their complains about all those wonderful Fities films that had Clak Gable, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant ect paired with young women. As you say it was a different society. Women matured younger and they looked for older, wiser men.

Jeff Flugel said...

This movie looks great! Thanks for bringing it to my attention with your fine review. I love Dick Powell and Debbie Reynolds is slowly growing on me (plus she looks super cute here). The colors in your screencaps are gorgeous.

Looks like it's time to add another one to my Warner Archives wishlist. Nice to have another Christmas-themed movie as well.

Lovin' your blog re-design, btw.

A. Warren said...

This movie looks very good! I definitely have to see it and everyone looks gorgeous in it! I must add that strawberries and pickles (with cream) is definitely something that I would try. Don't ask what would possess me to do such, I'm just weird lol.

Raquelle said...

Jeff - Thanks for stopping by. Debbie Reynolds is best in small doses if you are not a fan. She's so incredibly cute and bubbly that I can see how to some people that might be too much. Thanks for your comment on the blog re-design. I still have to work on that header (why won't it center). I really needed to change it to add this Reply feature to the comments section. I love it!

Raquelle said...

A. Warren - if you eat strawberries, mixed pickles and cream, do report back! :-)


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