Ruggles Provides Cruise Control
Bright, breezy and a lot of fun and ironically entertaining not because of the main story but for everything else. What I am on about is 1933 musical "Melody Cruise" with a central storyline about an eligible bachelor aboard a cruise and a couple of women who have his attention. Yet as I mentioned it is everything else from the brilliant comic timing of Charles Ruggles, creative fades and a couple of young women who spend the first half of the movie in their lingerie which makes it fun even now 80 years after it was made.
As they set off on a cruise, wealthy bachelor Alan Chandler (Phil Harris) forces his best friend Pete Wells (Charles Ruggles - The Parent Trap) into making sure he doesn't marry by sending a tell all letter to Pete's wife which is to be opened if he marries and Pete will not want his wife reading what he's been up to. The trouble is that whilst Alan has been playfully flirting with the beautiful Elsa (Greta Nissen) he accidentally meets Laurie (Helen Mack - Three Faces West) and truly falls for her, except she is well aware what Alan is like and when she sees Elsa entering his cabin thinks he's been playing her along. Alan's women are not Pete's only concerns as he finds himself with Zoe (June Brewster) and Vera (Shirley Chambers) in his cabin, two guests at their going away party who fell asleep before the boat left and now he has to try and keep them a secret.
In truth the main storyline to "Melody Cruise" is not that brilliant as we watch a bit of confusion comedy over the women in Alan's life. It is all too obvious that at some point Laurie will get the wrong idea when it comes to Elsa in doing so the proverbial spanner gets thrown into the works. The more entertaining storyline is all about Pete getting increasing flustered as he has to deal with Zoe and Vera who are in their lingerie whilst also desperately trying to stop Alan from marrying in order to stop his wife opening the letter. Again it is nothing new but it has a lot more comedy thanks to the brilliant comic timing of Charles Ruggles who steals every single scene he is in.
And that theme goes on through out the movie because it is all the little things which makes "Melody Cruise" still a surprisingly fun movie. We have the fact that being a pre-code movie we have Vera and Zoe in lingerie but we also have some creative transitions between scenes with a variety of fades. Then there is the musical side which to be honest this is a musical with very few songs but some great music which ties into what we see such as the opening which has a piece of music which imitates the noises of paths being swept, pistons on a train pumping and so much more. And to top that off for the sharp eye film fanatic there is an uncredited Betty Grable in one of her many minor roles before getting her big break. It is all these things rather than the romantic comedy of Alan, Laurie and Elsa which makes "Melody Cruise" tick.
What this all boils down to is that "Melody Cruise" despite being 80 years old is still a charming little early musical with a nice story but made more entertaining by all the little things. It is a movie which owes a lot to the brilliant comic timing of Charles Ruggles as without him it would be no where near as much fun.