Oh boy, another Deanna Durbin film; color me excited. Not that Three Smart Girls was bad, but it definitely wasn’t what I would call Best Picture material, so to see another Durbin vehicle nominated for the big one left me at an impasse as to how I should try and get through it. I guess I ended up putting it off more than I really would’ve preferred, since I’m only getting to it now. One Hundred Men and a Girl, despite the rather balky title, is a flighty film, coming in at just over 80 minutes of screentime, and again, seems to exist merely as another Deanna Durbin film to increase her star power and recognizability. That’s all well and good, and even with the film ending in a particularly positive way, it’s hard to dislike what the film tries to aspire to. But, and here’s the thing, it runs aground when one really takes a look at what the film is trying to accomplish in its own right; not in terms of story, but in terms of the producers and studio heads who said yes to the production.
Durbin is Patsy, who lives with her father, an unemployed musician behind on his rent payments. After trying unsuccessfully to get a contract playing for famed conductor Leopold Stokowski, he finds a woman’s purse dropped in the street, and quickly makes up a story to Patsy and his landlord about getting the job to explain where the money came from. After Patsy finds out the truth, she goes to return the purse and apologize, and through a surreptitious set of misunderstandings with its owner, a Mrs. Frost, she believes her father, and a group of 100 of his unemployed musician friends, are to be sponsored by Mr. Frost on a radio show, conducted by Stokowski himself. Now Patsy has quite the run-around to do to actually make it all happen, both for her father and all the other unemployed players she knows. Even with that plot summary, I was still left a little stymied as to what the point of this film was, even with the ending being what it is. It’s a heartwarming story, absolutely, but aside from providing another film vehicle for Deanna Durbin, I didn’t see any real reason for this film being needed to be made. I’d put it above Three Smart Girls, again pretty much solely for the ending of this one, but not by all that much. This would also be an interesting trivia tidbit in that Leopold Stokowski, a real-life famous conductor, played himself in a supporting role, in one of the very few films that he would ever do this. Stokowski, who may be better known for being the conductor in Fantasia, isn’t much of an actor, but thankfully, most of his role consists of him being himself and doing what he does best, and Durbin is more than capable of handling the rest of the heavy lifting in the film.
I can only hope we don’t have more Deanna-Durbin-starring ‘nothing’ films in the Best Picture pantheon from here on out, or this is going to get old even quicker than it already is getting. This was decent, and even likable in the ending act of the film, but I couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling that if it weren’t for Durbin, as well as the additional novelty of getting Stokowski to star in the picture, this film wouldn’t have been made at all. Of course, the history of cinema is filled with films, both good and bad, that were made pretty much for the sake of themselves and nothing more, so I guess I shouldn’t hold it against this one too much. But, with the lack of other selling points to this one, it does come across as slightly irksome that the film, or rather the filmmakers, seems to insist to the audience that it be seen, as if it really were worth the effort put forth to make it. In my opinion, it’s not, and it’s largely this that is why I’m giving it the rating I’m giving it, but it didn’t end poorly, so I won’t look back on it with too much contempt.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10