Talkie of the Week: One Touch of Venus
USA 1948, 82 minutes, black & white
Director: William A. Seiter
Written by Harry Kurnitz & Frank Tashlin
Based on the novel The Tinted Venus by F. Anstey
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.