It really is amazing how many actors and actresses I’ve overlooked all these years, in spite of being a big classic movie fan and TCM viewer. I’ve been in a rut, I suppose, watching the same actors and often the same movies over and over to the neglect of others.
I’m almost glad, though, since now I’m having the fun of discovering the work of people I hadn’t seen much of before, like Joel McCrea.
McCrea’s so wonderful in The More the Merrier – laconic, masculine, funny, decent, and oh so handsome and sexy.
There’s so much heat between his character, Joe Carter, and Jean Arthur’s Connie Milligan. The air in any room they’re in together seems electrically charged. Even before they meet it’s there, with her dancing her little bottom-wiggling rumba in her bedroom and him dancing his in the hallway. And once they do meet the rest of the movie is a delicious exercise in unresolved sexual tension, epitomized by the famous scene on the front stoop.
I love the way Joe puts her fur on her as they walk along, removes it, and puts it back again, all as an excuse to touch her bare shoulders. And of course once they collapse onto the steps he can’t stop putting his big hands all over her neck, back and waist.
Yet there’s nothing at all unpleasantly groping about it, in spite of Connie’s halfhearted, short-lived attempts to push his hands away. It’s intensely romantic, in fact, with her nattering on about the merits of her boring fiancé, Mr. Pendergast, while getting more and more distracted by the way Joe’s looking at and touching her. She almost collapses when she tries to stand up after they kiss, so weak-kneed is she after all of that.
Wonderful stuff. They don’t make scenes like this anymore. In a film today they’d have been pushing each other up the stairs and tearing each other’s clothes off. I don’t say that in moral judgment, really. I’m just glad for these kinds of tension-filled scenes in older movies.
Right after this Joe and Connie go to bed in their separate rooms and talk through the thin wall between them in what is another incredibly romantic moment. And of course all of this intensity is heightened by the fact that it’s wartime and Joe is about to leave, possibly never to return.
I’m not sure what the point of all this is, exactly. Mostly that I fancy Joel McCrea in The More the Merrier, I suppose, and am looking forward to seeing more of him in other movies.
For more on the hotness that is Joel McCrea, check out this article from Bright Lights Film Journal: Golden Boy: The Sexy Ways of Joel McCrea.
McCrea with Dolores del Rio in the racy pre-code Bird of Paradise (1932)