One Touch of Venus (1948): Classic Movie Review

Talkie of the Week: One Touch of Venus

USA 1948, 82 minutes, black & white

Universal Pictures

Director: William A. Seiter

Written by Harry Kurnitz  & Frank Tashlin

Based on the novel The Tinted Venus by F. Anstey

Cast: Ava Gardner, Robert Walker, Dick Haymes, Eve Arden, Tom Conway, Olga San Juan, James Flavin, Sara Allgood

Plot summary: Eddie Hatch locks lips with a Venus statue and thus awakens the real goddess, who stirs up his life.

Review: Originally purchased by Mary Pickford to bring the musical version of F. Anstey’s novel The Tinted Venus to the screen in Technicolor for United Artists, the project did not come to life until Lester Cowan secured the rights for Universal in 1947. He hired William A. Seiter to direct a black-and-white version of the story with Robert Walker, Ava Gardner and Dick Haymes as leading actors. The diverting plot worked beautifully without the musical numbers, first and foremost due to its excellent cast. Ava Gardner was a fantastic choice for Venus, the goddess of love, who comes to life through Robert Walker’s kiss. Together, they made for a handsome couple who knew how to tackle the comedic ups and downs of a lightweight story. They were supported by Tom Conway and Eve Arden, who added maturity to One Touch of Venus beyond the lines they were given. As a secretary who’s secretly in love with her boss, Arden played an endearing stereotype whose best moments, like Gardner’s, are saved for the end of the film.

All in all, the movie is a romantic comedy for three couples who give their best at entertaining their audience. Haymes and Olga San Juan are as cute a pair as Gardner and Walker and every bit as hilarious as RKO’s ex-Falcon Conway and future  Our Miss Brooks star Arden. The wisecracking Arden would have turned 104 this year, and One Touch of Venus is a great treat for anyone who’s interested in seeing some of her big screen work. Lighthearted and funny, the comedy will also lift you up and prepare you for warmer weather – it’s every bit as delightful and silly as spring fever season.

Melanie Simone is a writer with a degree in American Studies and English. On Talking Classics, she savors her love for vintage Hollywood.

 

  • Tom Rudnick

    I agree with your review of ‘One Touch of Venus.  It also contains one of the great songs, SpeaK Low!

  • Gemini09

    Eve Arden was always very witty in her films. I recently rewatched Mildred Pierce and she had some of the most classic one liners ever . Haven’t seen A touch of Venus for many years but I do remember how Ava Gardner lit up the screen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Smith/1455384402 Jim Smith

    Ava Gardner, Eve Arden, and Robert Walker are simply fabulous in this movie “One Touch Of Venus”.  This is the kind of movie that is entertaining, wholesome and funny.  Too bad Hollywood doesn’t remake a movie such as this one.  The movies of the 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s were probably the best films that ever came out of Hollywood studios.  In those decades, we saw genuine Hollywood stars whose movies have never gone out of style.

  • Christiana19119

    There are three words to describe “One Touch of Venus”:  delightful, delightful, and delightful.  Never was Ava Gardner more beautiful and never were she and Robert Walker more endearing.

    • Dhpatter

      While Ava Gardner was truly beautiful in her films, I think she is at her most beautiful in PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN.

  • Smoky

    I saw the movie, “One Touch of Venus” when I was about 10 years old.  I quickly fell in love with Ava Gardner, thinking the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.  Of course I’ve seen her movies many times since, but One Touch of Venus remains one of my favorites.  The other role where I really appreciated her acting was in “On the Beach”.

  • Jo

    I love this movie and always have.  Robert Walker, Ava Gardner the entire cast made this an enjoyable film from start to finish.  Would like to get the dvd for my collection.  Fantasy at it’s best. 

  • Bob

    Although entertaining, I think Universal made a bit of a botch of the movie.  In the first place this was a major Broadway musical so why did the studio decide to drop almost all of Kurt Weill’s score.? Also, Venus would have benefitted so much by having it shot in Techncolor.  When Mary Pickford purchased the rights to the film she envisioned it filmed in Technicolor with such stars as Clifton Webb, Mary  Martin. and Frank Sinatra.  Universal thought first of casting Deanna Durbin as Venus.  Unfortunately, Pickford  turned over the rights to independent producer Lester Cowan and in my opinion he made the film into a minor musical.  Although Ava Gardner is gorgeous as Venus the film  somehow falls flat.

  • Ron Daugherty

    Tom Rudnick’s comment regarding the moving theme song “Speak Low” reminded me of how I’ve always felt the music score of a film leaves as much of an impression on me as does the cast.  The history of the great composers of our brilliant classic films have never, in my opinion, been properly examined.  

  • Tom_rudnick

    Ron called Kurt Weill a film composer.  In fact he was a composer of symphanys and operas including The Three Penny Opera (Remember Mack The Knife)?   He fled Gemany and Hitler in 1933.  Came to New York and wrote several broadway shows including Lady In The Dark with Ira Gershwin. Thats the show that introduced Danny Kaye and gave us the song My Ship.  Knickerbocker Holiday that gave us September Song, One Touch of Venus and Lost in The Stars.  He Was married to Lotte Lenya who starred in the long running off broadway revival of The Three Penny Opera.  You might remember her as the Russian foil for jame Bond in To Russia With Love. 

    • Anne

      And Weill immortalized Lotte Lenya (as if she needed it) in his song “Mack the Knife” by actually calling her by name.

  • Crafty-lady

    I own this movie and watch it all them time. I love it! 

  • Pepe38

    I saw this movie when it first played in the theaters. It was a delightful movie with a Hollywood ending. Ava was Venus at her beautiful best. Walker, Arden and the rest of the cast did right by themselves.
    I don’t think Cowan meant it to be a musical as such, but a comedic fantasy which he succeeded in doing.

  • Jbog1038

    Amazing!!  I just watched “One Touch of Venus” on my dvd player the other day and I still love this  story about a Venus statue played by the beautiful actress, Ava Gardner,  that comes to life after Eddie Hatch, played by Robert Walker kisses it. What follows is scene after scene of comedy and music and fantasy. Also in the cast was Dick Haymes, Olga San Juan and Eve Arden.  Tom Conway was also in the film.  He plays the owner of Savory’s  Department Store, who tries to win the affections of his beloved Venus. The romance between Robert Walker and Ava Gardner was the highlight of this lovely film.  I saw this in the colorized version and it did not detract from the original b/w version in any way.

  • Melnmarge

    I also love “One Touch Of Venus” and the song “Speak Low” is one of my all time favorites.The song has been covered by many artists over the years and I have many of them but I have never found the version from the film on record or cd.Did Ava do her own singing?

  • Ron

    Always one of my favorite films even though the musical score was sadly left out of the film in way too many scenes. Universal seemed to have a habit of filming great Broadway musicals of the 30’s and 40’s and leaving most of the original songs on the cutting room floor or not filming them at all.
    Examples being BOYS FROM SYRACUSE, and UP IN CENTRAL PART.
    But what is on screen in VENUS is wonderful and charming. It is a film I can watch over and over.
    Ava was Gorgeous, wasn’t she?
    She was right up there with the most beautiful of leading ladies such as Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Gail Russell, Maureen O’Hara and Ingrid Bergman