Starring Lana Turner and Robert Young, what actually makes Slightly Dangerous a fun film is the supporting cast, which is impressive: Walter Brennan, Dame May Whitty, Eugene Pallette, Ward Bond, Alan Mowbray, Millard Mitchell, Ray Collins. My only complaint is that most of these people only show up for a scene or two. Not that Lana Turner and Robert Young are bad…I just haven’t yet seen Lana Turner in a film where she carried it on her own. She needs supporting cast.
Peggy Evans (Lana Turner) works at a soda fountain and is having a quarter life crisis. She has arrived at work on time one thousand consecutive days (earning a gift of $2.50 of merchandise from the management) and is afraid that she’s going to waste the best part of her life behind a counter. Her job is so mindless, she says, she could do it blindfolded. Her friend doesn’t believe her, but Peggy proceeds to demonstrate by making a banana split with a towel tied over her eyes, until the new manager, Bob Stuart (Robert Young) catches her at it.
At this point, Peggy’s crisis is causing her to become a bit hysterical and she talks wildly about doing away with Peggy Evans. Stuart assumes she is talking about suicide, while she is merely talking about running away and starting a new life (under a new name). When she leaves a note and skips out of town, everyone is convinced that Stuart drove her to suicide.
Meanwhile, Peggy starts her new life by buying a new wardrobe and having her hair down. While still trying to decide on the perfect name for herself, she unfortunately gets knocked on the head by a falling bucket of paint in front of the office of a prominent newspaper. The owner, Durstin (Eugene Pallette), is afraid she might sue (it was his company’s bucket of paint) and when she exhibits fuzziness about her name (because she hasn’t come up with one yet and doesn’t want to give her real one) he believes she has amnesia and promises to take care of her while he puts her picture in the paper so her family can identify her. She can hardly believe her luck.
But while Stuart sees her picture in the paper and is determined to save his job and his sanity by locating her (he’s having trouble sleeping at night because of the guilt over her “death” and the owner plans to fire him because the employees refuse to work for Stuart anymore), Peggy has the idea of masquerading as a missing heiress. She picks the case of the missing Carol Burden, kidnapped as a child, who would be just about the right age for Peggy. She goes to work, with Durstin unwittingly helping because he senses a good story for his paper. But she doesn’t just have to convince Cornelius Burden (Walter Brennan) that she’s his daughter, she has to convince Baba, the missing child’s nurse (Dame May Whitty). And they’ve seen a lot of impostors. Meanwhile, Stuart is following her everywhere, trying to get a chance to speak to her.
The title of the film is actually rather appropriate. She is, indeed, slightly dangerous. Not willfully so, but she has a knack for getting Robert Young into all sorts of trouble and upending people’s lives. Because of him, she just can’t quite leave her life behind. She keeps hearing someone say “Peggy Evans” everywhere she goes. In some ways, her role is that of a soft femme fatale. She cons people, then actually comes to like them. It’s a problem (most femme fatales don’t have these qualms). She adopts all her victims as family – or they adopt her.
The last third does sag a little, mostly because the supporting cast is absent and it mostly follows the romance between her and Robert Young, which is amusing enough, but I kept wishing some of the other characters would come back. Peggy is certainly an emotional girl. She cries more than anyone I’ve seen, but one suspects that Baba will soon cure her of that.
Walter Brennan actually gets a fairly interesting role as the irascible softy who tragically lost his daughter seventeen years before. I’m trying to think if I’ve seen Brennan play such a wealthy character before. Dame May Whitty is always good, this time as the nurse who clearly is the one who rules the roost in the house. Ward Bond is the muscle who protects Mr. Burden. He never says much and usually just points to communicate anything.
My favorite scene in the film is at the concert hall, where Stuart is trying to speak to Peggy, now officially recognized as Carol Burden. She keeps hearing her name spoken, as if from nowhere and various mishaps occur, including Stuart almost falling over the side of the balcony. After the incident, he meets Alan Mowbray, a bored society man (he says he hates music, prefers acrobats) who is determined to stick with Stuart all evening to see what he will do or say next. He’s especially curious to know what it felt like to hang over the side of the balcony. I particularly wished we saw more of him.
Not a classic, but very cute. It’s fun mostly because of the cast.
Supposedly, the idea for this scene came from Buster Keaton.
Walter Brennan reacts to negative references to his face.