So, typically after watching a film, and before writing a review, I read some other reviews online out of curiosity’s sake. And every so often, I find that my own opinion differs wildly from everyone else’s. However, that’s the beauty of reviews – they are opinion, and they are not a reflection on a given reviewer’s intelligence education, or schooling.
So with that said – I did not like Me And My Gal, to the point that I wondered why it was on this list in the first place.
I mean, intellectually I can guess why. It’s an early Spencer Tracy film, and he does give a good performance as spanking-new detective Danny Dolan, a former beat cop covering New York’s Lower East Side and East River Waterfront. He also has feisty chemistry with Joan Bennett, in her role as Helen Riley, the diner waitress he takes a shine to. Director Raoul Walsh also introduces some cute gimmicks and schtick – Dolan’s partner, who’s been advised to “be like Dolan” to further his career, takes the advice literally and spends the whole rest of the film practically glued to Dolan’s hip and repeating everything he says. A running gag between our lovers about how Dolan wears his hat is pretty endearing. An early scene set at the reception of Helen’s sister’s wedding sees the father of the bride jovially encouraging everyone to have a drink – then actor J. Farrell McDonald looks directly into the camera, at all of us in the audience, and crows, “you guys too, have a drink!” There are even a couple of scenes that see Danny and Helen thinking about – and even talking about – the double standard in courtship between men and women.
So there are some interesting bits. But the film as a whole just didn’t hang together for me. There’s a subplot concerning Helen’s sister Kate and a mobster she once dated; when we aren’t watching Danny romance Helen, we’re watching Kate secretly (and a little unwillingly) help her ex. The film does make Danny the chief investigator on the case, but the tone in each story thread felt too jarringly different. An extended bit of schtick with a profoundly drunk man hanging around the docks and causing mayhem was cute at first – actor Will Stanton pulls off some acrobatic pratfalls – but got pretty old after a while.
And one of those comments on the dating double standard takes the form of a bizarre riff on the O’Neill play Strange Interlude (misremembered by the characters as “Strange Inner Tube”), or as they describe it “that play where the characters say things and then you can hear what they’re thinkin’”. The notion of an inner monologue during a mundane conversation was handled a little better in the film Annie Hall, I thought; here, it just comes across as a reference that was probably up-to-date in 1932, but old and dated today.
The film was apparently a box office flop in the 1930s. So even though critics have lauded it, I am vindicated in my thumbs-down.