Susan Slept Here (1954)
Director: Frank Tashlin
Starring: Dick Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Anne Francis, Alvy Moore & Glenda Farrell
Released by: Warner Archive
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
When Oscar winning screenwriter Mark Christopher (Dick Powell, Murder, My Sweet) is overcome with writer’s block, unexpected inspiration arrives in the form of a 17-year-old delinquent (Debbie Reynolds, Singin’ in the Rain). In order to save her from a Christmas behind bars, Mark does the unthinkable and marries the teen with intentions of annulling the affair when she turns of age. Uncertain whether she wants to be the ex-Mrs. Christopher, Susan Slept Here delivers comical hijinks in a tale of possibly mismatched love. Anne Francis (Forbidden Planet), Alvy Moore (Green Acres) and Glenda Farrell (Little Caesar) co-star.
Based on the play by Steve Fisher and Alex Gottlieb with the latter contributing the film’s screenplay, Susan Slept Here is a romantic comedy of taboo sized proportion by today’s standards. Starring in not only his final film performance before leading a successful television career but, also his only feature photographed in color, Dick Powell appears as acclaimed yet, stumbling screenwriter Mark Christopher whose detective pal unloads teenage hooligan Susan Landis (Reynolds) with him in order to pull Mark out of his creative rut. Against his better judgement, Mark takes the underage beauty in only to be met with understandable confusion and rage from his dynamite fiancée and actress Isabelle Alexander (Francis). Although Mark’s best buddy Virgil (Moore), in a role originally considered for Mickey Rooney, and his loyal secretary Maude (Farrell) try to keep a lid on the scandalous situation, the harsh reality of Susan likely spending her remaining days in juvenile detention until her 18th birthday prompts the sympathetic screenwriter to scurry to Las Vegas with Susan for a shotgun wedding. Originally joined together to showcase Susan’s status as an upstanding citizen, true feelings develop as Mark hastily retreats to the mountains to put pen to paper on his new script, based on his own very unusual situation. Refusing to sign annulment papers while, Mark’s own uncertainty about their age difference subsides, a chance at true love may still be imminent for the odd couple.
Helmed by former animation director Frank Tashlin (Artists and Models) whose kinetic energy crafting toons is evident in his live-action output, Susan Slept Here’s charm lies heavily in the adorable bubbly personality of Reynolds whose alluring looks and sense of humor make indelible impressions on viewers and her elder beau. Cheekily narrated, in quite possibly a cinema first, by an Oscar statuette while, graciously being nominated twice for Best Music, Original Song and Best Sound Recording, Susan Slept Here plays its once controversial premise with sheer heart and tastefully romantic notions. Topped with a late musical-fantasy sequence bursting with exuberant colors, Susan Slept Here may be wired formulaically but, makes for breezy, light-hearted entertainment from simpler times.
Warner Archive presents Susan Slept Here with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. From RKO Pictures’ hot pink opening logo to the film’s glowing skin tones, the vibrant Technicolor photography is ushered in with warm detail and exceptional, natural grain levels. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the film’s opening song debuts with a strong, if not slightly sharp, presence before relaying crystal clear dialogue, free of cracks or other observable distortion. Lastly, the only supplement included is the film’s Trailer (2:17).
Released to modest success before then studio head Howard Hughes sold off RKO Pictures, Susan Slept Here is a warmly conceived rom-com for a rather head-turning love story. Reynolds’ youthful exuberance and remarkable beauty matched with Powell’s tender performance makes his feature film finale an endearing one alongside Reynolds’ rising stardom. Meanwhile, Warner Archive welcomes the Hollywood set charmer with an outstanding hi-def treatment, making sharing a bed with the hearty picture a pleasure.