This week’s mystery movie was the 1951 Paramount picture “The Mating Season,” a Mitchell Leisen production, with Gene Tierney, John Lund, Miriam Hopkins, Thelma Ritter, Jan Sterling, Larry Keating, James Lorimer, Gladys Hurlbut, Cora Witherspoon, Malcolm Keen, Ellen Corby, Billie Bird and Mary Young.
Screenplay by Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch and Richard Breen, suggested by a play by Caesar Dunn.
Photography by Charles B. Lang Jr. Art direction by Hal Pereira and Ronald Anderson. Process photography by Farciot Edouart. Set decoration by Sam Comer and Ray Moyer.
Edited by Frank Bracht. Costumes for Miss Tierney executed by Oleg Cassini. Makeup by Wally Westmore. Sound by Don McKay and John Cope. Music score by Joseph J. Lilley.
Produced by Charles Brackett. Directed by Mitchell Leisen.
“The Mating Season” is not generally available on DVD or streaming. There is a funky low-resolution version on YouTube.
I decided to follow last week’s “The File on Thelma Jordon” with another Thelma film, as in Thelma Ritter. But which movie? I rummaged around in the Daily Mirror vault and came up with “The Mating Season,” which last aired on TCM in 2014. Ritter received fourth billing — and an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. She carries the movie. Without Thelma Ritter, this film would be just another undistinguished mid-century comedy of manners; a movie that labors to be even mildly funny. Gene Tierney as a ditzy newlywed who sets the kitchen ablaze trying to cook? Please.
In “The Mating Season,” Ritter plays a gentle but world-wise short-order cook whose hamburger stand goes broke and goes to live with her son, an ambitious young executive (John Lund) who spends most of his time cleaning up messes for the owner’s lazy, raffish son (James Lorimer, in real life, producer Charles Brackett’s son-in-law). One particular mess involves a rich, lovely young lady (Gene Tierney) stranded in junior’s car, which is hanging over a cliff. What follows this strained “meet cute” is the usual mid-century romantic comedy of manners (she’s rich and has no real-world skills; he’s honest but isn’t in the social register and doesn’t come from money) complicated by the arrival of the leading man’s embarrassingly rough around the edges mother, who (spoiler alert) in a series of mix-ups passes as the new couple’s cook.
The film got excellent reviews in the trades.
Very good! It is a captivating blend of comedy and sentiment that is certain to tickle the fancy and warm the hearts of all types of audiences. It should receive a strong boost at the box office from the word-of-mouth advertising that it is sure to garner. If Hollywood could produce yearly a sufficient number of pictures of this caliber, the exhibitors would not have to give television a second thought.
Paramount has a winner in “The Mating Season,” a delightful entertainment compound of sparkling comedy and human interest that is bound to bring great pleasure to audiences of every stripe. Box office returns should be excellent in all except the action houses, and even in the latter situations highly favorable word-of-mouth should build a large audience…. Thelma Ritter … is simply magnificent as the bankrupt operator of a hamburger stand who goes to take up her son’s offer to live with him, only to find that he has just married the rich daughter of an American ambassador.
And let’s see which New York Times critic hated it….
That would be Bosley Crowther, who said (April 12, 1951)
That grand comedienne, Thelma Ritter, who neatly ate up the minor roles of gawky, outspoken domestics in “A Letter to Three Wives” and “All About Eve,” finally is handed a portion into which she can get her working teeth in Charles Brackett’s “The Mating Season,” which came to the Paramount yesterday. And what she does with the character that she is given to play in this pastiche is almost enough to make a silk purse out of routine merchandise. We said almost.
And so on.
Note to Sylvia: Regarding our mystery bus driver… It looks like there were at least two Elizabeth Flournoys living in Los Angeles and that IMDB may list the wrong one, born in 1886. I found an Elizabeth Thompson Flournoy, born in Chicago on May 30, 1910, who was married to a commercial artist, William R. Flournoy, and died in San Diego in 1997. She would have been 31 when “The Mating Season” was released. Alas, I haven’t found any confirmation yet that she was an actress. I’ll have to drag out some of her other movies for comparison.
This week’s mystery movie has a large cast; some of the people are fairly obscure and the film has never been commercially released on DVD. To compensate, I’ll post three mystery guests for Monday. The first is our mystery switchboard operator.
Update: This is Gilda Oliva.
Monday’s second guest is this mystery chap.
Update: This is William “Bill” Welsh, a veteran newsman at KTTV-TV in Los Angeles. With Stan Chambers, Welsh covered the Kathy Fiscus incident for KTLA-TV.
Here’s our third mystery guest for Monday. Her companion has been cropped out due to insufficient mysteriousness – and because of the annoyance of Google Image Search. It’s become increasingly difficult to find mystery photos that don’t appear in reverse images searches. Rest assured, the Monday folks have been run through various search engines to ensure maximum mysteriousness.
Update: For Friday, here’s the mysterious bus driver’s less-mysterious companion.
Update: This is Elizabeth Flournoy (one of them, anyway) and Thelma Ritter.
For Tuesday, we have a mystery woman. She does not approve of such goings-on. Also Back of the Head Woman, who will appear Friday.
Update: This is Florence Wix.
We also have this mystery gent. The leading man has been cropped out due to insufficient mysteriousness and will appear Friday.
Update: For Friday, I’ve uncropped the photo to show our mysterious leading man.
Update: This is Baker Sichol and John Lund.
Brain Trust roll call: Patrick (Monday’s mystery gent) and Suzanne Stone (mystery movie and all mystery guests).
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have this mystery gent.
Update: This is James Lorimer.
We also have this mysterious backgammon player.
Update: This is Cora Witherspoon.
And finally, we have these two mystery women, plus Back of the Head Leading Lady, who will appear Friday.
Update: This is Ellen Corby (Grandma Walton), left, Billie Bird, and Gene Tierney as Back of the Head Leading Lady.
Brain Trust roll call: Alexa Foreman (mystery movie).
For “Aha Thursday,” we have two mysterious guests at a mystery lunch counter.
Update: This is William Fawcett and Carol Coombs.
Also for Thursday, we have this mystery woman with Back of the Head Leading Man, who will appear Friday.
Update: This is John Lund, showing no interest in secretary Jan Sterling.
Brain Trust roll call: Sylvia E. (mystery movie, mystery director, Monday’s mystery phone operator, Wednesday’s mystery women and Back of the Head Leading Lady), Mary Mallory (mystery movie, Monday’s and Wednesday’s mystery guests and Back of the Head Leading Lady), Tucson Barbara (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery women, Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 2 and Back of the Head Leading Lady), Funky PhD (Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 2), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery guests, Tuesday’s Back of the Head Leading Lady and mystery gent, and all of Wednesday’s mystery guests), David Inman (mystery movie and Wednesday’s mystery women Nos. 2 and 3 and Back of the Head Leading Lady), Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 2), Gary (mystery movie, Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 2 and Back of the Head Leading Lady), Benito (Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 2) and Roget-L.A. (mystery movie and Wednesday’s mystery women Nos. 2 and 3 and Back of the Head Leading Lady),
Note to Tucson Barbara: I made exactly the same mistake in previewing the mystery movie and pulled the wrong DVD in error. Imagine my surprise!
For Friday, we have this mystery gent.
Update: This is Larry Keating.
And our mysterious leading lady and leading man…
Update: This is Gene Tierney and John Lund.
Update: This is Thelma Ritter.
Brain Trust roll call: Tucson Barbara (Thursday’s mystery guests), Mary Mallory (Thursday’s mystery woman No. 2 and mystery leading man), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery guests), Mike Hawks (mystery movie, Thursday’s mystery lunch counter customer, mystery leading man and mystery woman No. 2), Benito (Thursday’s mystery woman No. 2), Blackwing Jenny (mystery movie, Wednesday’s mystery woman No. 2 and Back of the Head Leading Lady), Sylvia E. (Thursday’s mystery guests) and Beach Gal (mystery movie and all mystery guests).
Note to Sylvia: You raise an interesting question about our mysterious bus driver. I’ll have to dig into it!