Let's Make It Legal

Hugh (Macdonald Carey) and Miriam Halsworth (Claudette Colbert) got married, had a daughter Barbara (Barbara Bates) who is married to Jerry (Robert Wagner) and has produced a grandchild. Now Hugh and Miriam are getting divorced as a result of Hugh’s gambling. But a complicating factor is the arrival in town of Miriam’s old flame Victor Macfarland (Zachary Scott)…

Despite future Billy Wilder collaborator I.A.L. Diamond’s presence in the writing credits, this is a middling romantic comedy that feels overstretched even at an hour and a quarter. As with its box-set companion (As Young as You Feel, released the same year) it’s let down by anonymous direction. At the helm here was Richard Sale who was primarily a writer who had left cinema directing for television by the end of the Fifties. Also, none of three leads are particularly distinguished. Macdonald Carey had a very long career (with some interesting films towards the end of it, including It’s Alive III and American Gigolo) but much of it is undistinguished, competent but rather dull. Zachary Scott was a much more notable actor whose career was cut short by his death in 1965, aged 51, from a brain tumour. But this film would certainly not rank as one to set against Mildred Pierce, Ruthless and The Southerner. He plays Macfarland in full-blown lounge-lizard mode, so vain and self-regarding that he’s almost camp. You wonder if Victor is one of those codified gays that turn up now and again in Hollywood movies – not labelled as such, but obvious as to what they’re intended to be – if you know where to look. On the other hand, the writing in this film is weighted more towards the men, and Claudette Colbert has little to do. Oh, and Marilyn Monroe? She turns up in a few scenes as a bathing-beauty friend of Hugh’s.

Let’s Make It Legal drags by the half-way mark, and the revelation of precisely how Hugh won Miriam from Victor all those years ago is too little and too late. This one is for Monroe completists in the main, with little to attract anyone else.

Let’s Make It Legal makes its DVD debut as part of Fox’s Marilyn Monroe: Classic Collection Volume Two box set. As I write (October 2004) it isn’t available separately in the UK, though it is in the USA.

Again, this DVD release shows that even minor releases like this are being kept in good condition. This transfer of a film more than fifty years old has hardly a scratch or a spot to be seen. Blacks and whites are solid in this monochrome film, and the varying shades of grey are well rendered. The only thing preventing me from giving this transfer full marks is the fact that it’s grainier than I guess it’s intended to be, and it just misses that vital something which distinguishes the great black and white DVD transfers. Be assured that the picture quality is very acceptable though. As you’d expect from an Academy Ratio film, the transfer is full-frame 4:3.

The sound is the original mono, a very professional mix balancing dialogue, music and sound effects. It’s up to major-studio standards of the day, which got the best out of the resources available to them, and a 5.1 remix would be entirely pointless.

There are twenty chapter stops. The disc is encoded for both Regions 2 and 4. There are no extras, not even a trailer. The commentary from Robert Wagner that is on the Region 1 version is absent here, presumably removed to make way for an Italian dub.

Let’s Make It Legal isn’t a bad film, just a middling one that hasn’t really stood the test of time and is of interest for the presence of a future star in a small role. However, if you are going to buy the box set of which this forms a part, it’s nice to own and to have an opportunity to see it, though I suspect repeat viewings won’t be a priority for this film.

5 out of 10
8 out of 10
7 out of 10
0 out of 10


out of 10