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Friday, July 18, 2014

'Teacher's Pet' DVD: Gable and Day Do Tracy and Hepburn

Teacher's Pet
It is amusing that the 1958 Doris Day/Clark Gable romcom "Teacher's Pet," which Warner Archive recently released on DVD, is a very good film that does not quite live up to its potential.

This tale of a hard-edged veteran newspaper editor falling in love with the instructor of a journalism class in which he covertly enrolls earns a solid B+. The exceptionally strong resolution of conflicts at the end of the film helps earn this grade.

Gable does just as well in his role of James Gannon as he does in the other films in which he plays a traditional newspaperman. The fairly recently released (and Unreal TV reviewed) 1935 film "After Office Hours" is a lesser-known but prime example of this. Gable deserves an A+ for his performance in both movies.

Shockingly, Day does not less well in her role as Erica Stone. One would think that this knockout character with a wonderfully feisty independent spirit, excellent brain, and kind heart/good humor is tailor-made for America's sweetheart.  On a happier note, Day does an exceptional job with the "Pet" theme song

The distressing sad truth (and major "Pet" peeve) is that Day simply does not put her heart into this one. Her spark is largely missing, she trips over her lines at least four times, and she lacks any chemistry with Gable. The latter may be the primary problem, which may relate to Gable being roughly 20 years older than Day.

On a more positive note, Gable has uber-awesome chemistry with Gig Young; Archive shares that Young received an Oscar nod for his portrayal of Dr. Hugo Pine.

Pine is a colleague of Day and perceived rival of Gannon. At the least, Pine has the role of ensuring that Gannon is good enough for the beloved Erica.

The scenes between Pine and Gannon are among the best in the film, which would have earned an A+ if it focused on that relationship.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, is typical of the much of the Gable/Day interaction. It shows that the writing is clever but not presented quite as well as hoped for.

Secondary fun and good casting has Marion Ross of "Happy Days" as the secretary of Pines and '50s bad girl Mamie Van Doren as a sultry night club singer who is dating Gannon. Day does shine in a scene in which she mocks the singing performance of Van Doren's character.

On a more substantive note, "Pet" does a great job portraying the debate regarding relative value of experience versus formal education and offers nice commentary on the impact of the relatively new technology of radio and the even newer technology of television on the more outdated technology of newspapers. The clear disdain of Gannon for "college boys" conveys this well.

The sad truth regarding all this is that most folks who watch "Pet" 50 years from now on the video technology of that day likely will never have picked up a newspaper.

The homework assignment for anyone with questions or comments regarding "Pet" is to email me. You alternatively can connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.