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The Talk Of The Town – George Stevens

Submitted by on December 23, 2010 – 1:07 pmNo Comment

Events begin moving quickly as Lightcap discovers that the gardener is actually Dilg, and Nora and Lightcap discover that no one was killed in the fire—the supposedly dead man, Clyde Bracken, is merely hiding out. Light-cap gets so involved in the intrigues that when he finds out that Bracken has a girl friend in town, he takes her dancing merely to get information from her. He finds that Bracken is in Boston getting his mail at the general delivery window and takes Nora and Dilg to Boston to capture him though he has to lie to the police to get them to release Nora and also has to knock out Dilg in order to get him to come along on the trip. Thus Lightcap, having begun the film as the standard ivory-tower intellectual, is so changed by his experiences that by the end he has lied to the police, refused to turn in a wanted person, and used force to achieve his goals—all things he would not have countenanced before, but all things done in the interest of true justice.

Even though Lightcap is told the first day he is in town that he is to be appointed to the Supreme Court and should keep his name out of the newspapers, once he gets involved in the case he insists on seeing it through. The culmination of the change in his thinking comes when he uses a gun to capture Bracken and take him to the courtroom, which is being stormed by an angry mob threatening to lynch Dilg. He gives an impassioned speech in which he says that the law must be “engraved in our hearts,” and that both those who want to ignore the law completely and those who think of it as a set of abstract principles are wrong. Even though this speech might sound platitudinous in another context, the fact that it comes out of Lightcap’s experience makes it effective and moving. As Dilg says after Lightcap is appointed to the Supreme Court, he is a better Justice for his experience.

These changes in Lightcap’s ideas are not the only changes that occur. A suggestion of a romance begins to develop between Nora and each of the men. Neither openly admits his own feelings, but instead each talks to Nora about the other man. Dilg, for example, tells Nora that Lightcap is in love with her and adds, “I know just how he feels.” Each man seems inhibited by his respect for the other as well as his uncertainty about the choice she will make.

In romantic comedies a woman usually has to choose between two men or a man between two women, and the choice is nearly always quite predictable. For example, though the film It Happened One Night is quite good, there is little doubt that in the end Claudette Colbert will prefer Clark Gable over Jameson Thomas. In The Talk of the Town, however, both men are played by actors who were frequently romantic leading men. When Nora has to choose between the two, it is a difficult choice that cannot be so easily predicted, especially since Lightcap has changed so much during the film. In fact, the choice between the two men is so close that the filmmakers shot two endings and made the choice themselves only after previewing the film.

The decisive moment comes on the day Lightcap takes his place on the bench of the Supreme Court. Nora goes to see him in his chambers where he suggests that she choose her “reckless friend.” A few minutes later she sees Dilg, who recommends Lightcap because of his “position, dignity, and place in life” and tries to walk away, but Nora, saying she is tired of people trying to make up her mind, kisses him. He then leaves but immediately comes back to take her with him as the film ends.

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