A note from Lindsey: I happened to schedule a few Fred MacMurray films in a row, so this week TMP brings to you an impromptu series of posts, THREE DAYS OF FRED! Today is day three, and we’re capping off the series with  a review of Never a Dull Moment. Previous reviews: The Shaggy Dog and Where Do We Go From Here?

Kay Kingsley (Irene Dunne) is a beloved Broadway songwriter who has organized a rodeo in New York City to raise money for charity. Chris Heyward (Fred MacMurray) is a rancher and cowboy performing in the rodeo.

Kay catches the eye of Chris when he sees her perform a song at the event. Fellow rider Orvie (Andy Devine), sure that the widower Chris is in desperate need of a wife to help raise his children, encourages the two to talk to each other.

Though they’re both reluctant to see each other at first, Kay and Chris fall into a whirlwind romance and decide to marry. Moving to Chris’ ranch, Kay encounters a few mishaps while adjusting to life in the West.

(Image via childstarlets.com)
(Image via childstarlets.com)

Never a Dull Moment was directed by George Marshall. The film is based on Who Could Ask for Anything More? by Kay Swift.

Of this film, The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther wrote:

“RKO’s Never a Dull Moment, which came to the Rivoli yesterday, possesses the most inaccurate title of any picture that has come along this year. That is the one distinction which can be credited it. Pretending to tell the story of a lady song writer who marries a rodeo hand and goes to live with him on his ranch in Wyoming, with supposedly comical results, its sole achievement as entertainment is the presentation of Irene Dunne in a series of rustic encounters that are about as funny as stepping on a nail.”

“Supposedly comical!” “About as funny as stepping on a nail!” That’s some very harsh criticism to heap upon a film. But I have to agree —  the film doesn’t live up to its title.

As you’ll know if you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, I’m not an extremely harsh critic. Most of the scores I give are in the 3 to 4 range out of five; I’ve given plenty of higher ratings as well, fives and “super fives” (the TMP name for instant favorites). I’ve developed a talent for selecting new-to-me movies that I’ll find decent, at the very least. Through blogging about nearly everything I watch, I’ve come to know my own taste very well.

But this is going to be one of those rare negative reviews. While the cast is packed with big names (MacMurray, Dunne, William Demarest, a young Natalie Wood), Never a Dull Moment is loaded with problems.

"How wild can the west be?" Not very wild at all, if this film is any indication. (Image via Movie Poster Shop)
“How wild can the west be?” Not very wild at all, if this film is any indication. (Image via Movie Poster Shop)

First, the script. The script. It’s unbearably lacking any sort of wit or any clever twists. The “city girl gone country” premise promises comedy. It should have been easy to land at least a few jokes. No such luck for Never a Dull Moment. With the exception of the opening rodeo and one mildly-energetic scene in which Irene Dunne battles a multitude of disasters all at once (an almost-on-fire oven, a severe wind storm, an unexpected visitor), there’s nothing amusing about this film. I’m not sure if this was a result of sticking too closely to the source material or of poorly adapting it, but whatever the case, the film just doesn’t work.

Aside from the fact that there are, in fact, plenty of dull moments in the film, one of the biggest issues for me was the use of tasteless “comedy.” This includes a heavily stereotyped Native American character – “Pocahontas Webfoot,” the cook at the Heyward ranch. I don’t think I can adequately describe how disappointed I was to see this character when I tuned in hoping for a cute and sweet Irene Dunne rom-com.

Even the performances seem off here. I usually love both MacMurray and Dunne. Unfortunately, neither is able to elevate the material.

I won’t hesitate to say that Never a Dull Moment is one of the worst new-to-me films I watched last year. The score: 1/5

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Lindsey, why end a three-day celebration of Fred MacMurray with a negative review?” As I mentioned above, the films just happened to fall into the schedule this way, and I stuck with the original order of scheduling, which happened to move in a downward slope score-wise. Despite this one bad film I’m still a big fan of Fred MacMurray and encourage you to watch his better films, some of which are airing on TCM soon, since he’s the star of the month. Here are some recommendations:

  • True Confession aired yesterday and can be viewed on WatchTCM until January 14. This film also appears in the Carole Lombard Glamour Collection DVD set, which I highly recommend adding to your collection.
  • MacMurray will be sharing the small screen with Stanwyck on January 13 as TCM airs Double Indemnity, There’s Always Tomorrow, Remember the Night, and The Moonlighter, giving you a chance to experience one of MacMurray’s greatest screen pairings.
  • If you love MacMurray and love Disney, The Shaggy Dog and The Absent-Minded Professor are both airing on January 27.

All of these films (and more) from MacMurray’s filmography are well worth watching — just skip that showing of Never a Dull Moment on January 21!