UNDEREMPLOYMENT CINEMA — Over the Moon (1939)

I have a bit of a thing for Merle Oberon so it was nice to see that TCM was showing 1939’s Over the Moon. This movie was filmed in Technicolor but it seems like a different Technicolor than 1939’s Wizard of Oz. I am wondering if perhaps this film has not been restored like a more iconic movie might be. The movie almost seems to look colorized. In the end, Merle looked much more glorious in the beautiful black and white of Wuthering Heights, made the same year, than here in Over the Moon.

So, onto the story. Merle Oberon plays orphaned Jane Benson, who is stuck up in Yorkshire looking after the old and infirm servants at an estate. She dreams of traveling to Paris and Monte Carlo, and a country doctor, Freddie (Rex Harrison), wants to take her away, but her grandfather’s will keeps her bound to Yorkshire.

Suddenly, the executors of the estate tell Jane that she has inherited 18 millions pounds sterling and the attention drives away Freddie and attracts hangers on. Some are harmless but some are hoping to marry her. One of the is a man who is clearly gay, telegraphed to us by his wearing fur slippers and his manservant clearly mocking him.

Jane moves to London and spends lots of money and then moves on to other destinations, gambling in Monte Carlo, and going skiing in Switzerland. She crosses paths with Freddie again and while being wooed by someone even richer than herself, she hopes to reconnect with Freddie.

What’s really fun about this movie is that Rex Harrison is young enough to be fun and carefree and not the stern older man we are used to from his roles in the 1950s and 1960s. While the Technicolor today needs work, I imagine that for film audiences, seeing Venice and St. Mark’s in living moving color must’ve been exciting for 1939 audiences at a time you didn’t really have today’s alternatives like the Internet or TV to see foreign countries as they are.

Also interesting is how everyone is moving about Europe quite easily during wartime, but i assume that a movie released in December 1939 was made before Hitler invaded Poland that September.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN MOMENT: The film features a musical number sung by Elisabeth Welch, probably because they wanted a musical number in the movie. It sort of comes out of nowhere but it’s a nice change to see a movie from that era without reducing a black woman to a complete stereotype.

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