MR. WINKLE GOES TO WAR

 (1944)
With Edward G. Robinson, Ruth Warrick, Ted Donaldson, Bob Haymes, Richard Lane, Robert Armstrong
Directed by Alfred E. Green
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

      What a difference a studio makes.  Had this mediocre war effort picture been shot at Warner Brothers, it would have been filled with the usual Warner allotment of character actors and directed by someone like Michael Curtiz.  But by 1944, Edward G. Robinson was officially out of Warners and so MR. WINKLE GOES TO WAR was made at Columbia.  "In the tradition of Mr. Deeds", said the tagline, referring to the Frank Capra classic MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN, released by Columbia in 1936.  Nice tagline but hardly accurate.  Perhaps if Capra had directed this one, it would have been better.  As is, it is a simple story of one timid bookkeeper in his forties who quits his job to devote his time to a home fix-it business, only to be drafted the next day.  Robinson does his by-now standard "mild mannered professor" characterization, seen before in better films such as THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING  and THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE .  But Robinson along cannot carry this picture, and the cast, although featuring some good talent, is a far cry from what Warners would have provided.  I have nothing against Ruth Warrick, who plays the shrewish Mrs. Winkle, but her character is bland and unwritten, seemingly changing her mind about her husband's decisions merely because the script call on her to do so.  Young Ted Donaldson and Bob Haymes are fine in their parts, but only Richard Lane, as an army sargent, comes close to bringing an energy to his role that Robinson can play off of.  The film moves along lazily and predictably, and the one moment where it truly comes alive is during a group singalong of "Sweet Genevieve".

    Just to illustrate how strange movie careers could be back then, after this half-hearted comedy, Robinson's next film would be the Billy Wilder classic DOUBLE INDEMNITY, which would mark the beginning of a four year stretch in which the actor did some of of best work in some of his greatest movies. 2 - JB

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