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Jan 26, 2019

The Gipper’s slow segue out of the Warner fold began with this tone-setting suburban sitcom for Universal-International. Part of his new sometime-studio’s “Big Push” at the dawn of  the television decade, Louisa shows how easily Reagan might have stepped into a Father Knows Best/My Three Sons-style second career. If only he had done so, American (and Canadian) marginal tax rates might still be at 70%.

As usual (and as per Gareth’s thesis), Reagan mainly holds down the stage for the benefit of his co-stars, occupying a crucially colorless space between the coming and the going generations. The latter group includes Spring Byington (in the title role), Edmund Gwenn and Charles Coburn - reworking their love-triangle dynamics from the immortal Devil and Miss Jones. At the other end of the scale, we find debuting Piper Laurie, tragic Scotty Beckett, and little Jimmy Hunt with his big radio.

The film runs a brilliant reverse-play on the viewer, feinting toward some kind of a send-up of senior citizen sexuality and then delivering those second-chance-at-life intensities surprisingly straight. It all starts on a sidewalk outside Gwenn’s gourmet grocery shop, with a conversation about the loneliness of twilight. Along the way, we get some pretty decent dissection of masculinity at every age and stage of that particular disease (speaking of which – get ready for some rough revelations about Dutch's post-divorce relapse into “Leading Lady-itis”).

Novel suggestion:

Peter Delacorte's Time on My Hands

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