Never Say Goodbye (1946)
Genre: Romantic Comedy with screwball elements
I hadn’t planned on doing a review of this movie just yet but when I saw it was being shown on TCM on December 17th, I jumped. Why? Well, it’s another movie which hasn’t been released on DVD yet and the only VHS copies are used.
Artist Phil Gayley (Errol Flynn when he still had most of his good looks) and Ellen Gayley (Eleanor Parker who’s best known as the Baroness in “The Sound of Music”) got a divorce almost 6 months ago but neither one’s heart was really in it. Ellen sort of got “but”ed into it, by her interfering mother, and both are having second thoughts. Another person who wants them back together is their 7 year old daughter Phillippa “Flip” (wonderfully played by child actress Patti Brady). But it seems every time Phil tries to win Ellen back, his current model and girlfriend Nancy (Peggy Knudsen, a shapely blonde with a hard look) shows up to ruin things.
Phil can’t even go play Santa Claus for Flip without his ex-mother in law shoving another man at Ellen. Then Fenwick Lonkowski (Forrest Tucker, probably best know for his work on F-Troop) shows up. Who’s he? The Marine Flip’s been writing to in the Pacific. Only problem is she sent her mother’s picture (nothing’s too good for the Marines) and now he’s in town on leave. Will “Wickie” make a play for Ellen too or will he help this still in love couple get back together again?
As dashing and swashbuckling as Errol Flynn was, he could play contemporary comedy fairly well too. And here he also gets to display a gift for physical comedy as he outwits Ellen’s “stick in the mud” lawyer beau as Santa Claus and tries to match Fenwick in calisthenics. He and Eleanor Parker also play off their restaurateur friend Luigi (the marvelous S.Z. Sakall) throughout the film as he attempts to aid Cupid but usually ends up muddling things even worse.
Eleanor Parker is luminous on her own and got fitted out beautifully by the wardrobe staff at Warner Brothers. She manages to pull off still being in love with her ex-husband yet not taking much crap off him either. Another actress I love to see in this film is the excellent Hattie McDaniel in a bit part which I wish had been a bit bigger. Yeah, she’s a nursemaid again but has few zinger lines and manages to avoid allowing her character to look like a caricature.
But the best relationship in the movie is between Flip and her father. Usually child actors of this era spoke in a sing-song manner which drives me nuts. Flip does this a little but it seems like it’s more her natural speech than anything artificial. I love the lighthearted bantering between father and daughter and how Phil turns everything into something special for his little girl. Some will complain that their interaction is too saccharine or that Flip speaks in too worldly-wise a manner but for me, the movie has always struck just the right spot.
Watch for Flynn’s wonderful imitation of Bogie (complete with Humphrey Bogart actually voicing the scene) and enjoy him in a genre that I wish he’d been allowed to do more often. Savor one of his last films in which he still has his looks. Listen to the “wittier than it initially appears” script and check out all the secondary actors and actresses doing a fine backup job. Meanwhile, I’ll hope that somebody finally releases this one on DVD.