Shirley Temple’s career wasn’t purely delineated into “child” and “adult,” but the latter was subdivided into “teenager” and “young adult” which made certain movies ill-defined. Temple’s return to the screen certainly had some underrated gems – The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) and Kathleen (1941) being two – but, for the most part, Temple just never knew how to be a convincing adult. The prime example of this lack of definition comes through in Honeymoon, a weak programmer that mixes Bringing Up Baby (1938) with the aforementioned Bobby-Soxer. The combination does not a good movie make.
Barbara Olmstead (Temple) wants to marry her army beau, Phil (Guy Madison). Unfortunately, the two’s paths have yet to cross; however, Barbara’s path keeps veering into the life of American consul David Flanner (Franchot Tone), causing mayhem between David and his impatient fiancee, Raquel (Lina Romay).
It was hard watching this after the enjoyable delight that’s Kathleen. (If you want to read my review of Kathleen before it’s republished here, check out ClassicFlix.) Shirley Temple had a tough enough time shedding her “Good Ship Lollypop” image already, but the awkwardness came through best (or worst) when the material wasn’t good. Despite being directed by William “Adventures of Robin Hood” Keighley, everything about Honeymoon feels forced, pulled, and manipulated to be funny.
Screenwriter Michael Kanin, writing from a story by Vicki Baum, fashions a work desperate to mimic Bringing Up Baby with its tale of a kooky young lady trying to ruin the life of an uptight man, only in lieu of a leopard we get Guy Madison whining for nearly 90-minutes. It isn’t that any of the actors are bad, per se (maybe with the exception of Madison), it’s just that they’re trying so hard to make that humor reach all the way to the back of the house. Barbara’s entrance into Flanner’s life best exemplifies the “humor” of the film, as she sobs and leaves her suitcase in the man’s office, forcing her to return for a hairbrush and other girlie incidentals. The rest of the humor between the two involves Flanner covering up how he knows Barbara to his friends and fiancee, even though it sounds like he could explain it very easily.
As Temple aged, it took a certain finesse having her mitigate between adult and child. Her Barbara Olmstead loses herself in an uncanny valley in between, old enough to get married but not old enough to be considered a woman. There’s little differentiating Barbara Olmstead from Susan, her character in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer; both are in love with being in love and dating men who couldn’t be more turned off by them. Unlike Bachelor, though, where the story of this May-December romance becomes the entirety of the plot, Honeymoon goes through several different plots, one of which has Barbara being smacked in the head and instantly falling for David. You’d assume this would come far earlier in the story than it does.
And it isn’t exaggerating that the film runs the gamut of different romantic-comedy plotlines. The third act sees The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer ripped off, while the first half involves Barbara and Guy Madison’s Phil continually missing each other in Mexico, then running into a string of complications preventing them from getting married. With these plotlines running, it makes little sense to throw in the “Barbara loves David” monkey wrench that’s quickly solved before returning everyone to the impending nuptials of two wacky kids.
Honeymoon is a watchable distraction, but it shows how out of her depth Temple could be. Franchot Tone, an actor I haven’t particularly enjoyed, turns in a fun performance as the befuddled David. Temple and Guy Madison are cute together, but insufferably annoying.
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