The Talk Of The Town – George Stevens
Although The Talk of the Town is a film which deals with ideas, its characters are not always engaged in heavily philosophical discussions. The film’s humor runs from the near-slapstick as Nora attempts to keep Lightcap from seeing Dilg at the beginning to such little touches as Dilg seeing his picture on a wanted poster and remarking, “No one would recognize me from that—doesn’t catch the spirit.” Indeed, it is a comic scene in which the discussions between Dilg and Lightcap begin. The morning after Lightcap’s arrival he is dictating to Nora, but she has trouble concentrating on the work because she can see Dilg sneaking into the kitchen to get something to eat. As Dilg is getting food out of the refrigerator, he hears Lightcap describe law as “an instrument of pure logic” and casually walks out to argue with him, much to the consternation of Nora. She quickly explains, however, that Dilg is the gardener and they are able to keep his true identity secret for a little longer.
The screenplay by Irwin Shaw and Sidney Buchman is excellent, but the actors deserve a good portion of the credit for creating such interesting characters. Michael Lightcap seems at first to be merely an intelligent but emotionless man who thinks of everything outside of his work as merely a distraction, but as the film progresses, we learn more about his background, and-we see him discover more about himself and about the rest of the world.
He tells Nora that he first grew his beard because he was one of the youngest ever to graduate from Harvard Law School and wanted to look older and more professional. He admits, however, that he began to hide behind that reserved appearance; it became his fortress. The beard, therefore, is emblematic of his detached outlook both for him and for others; it is more significant than it might seem when he shaves it off. Colman, with his usual cultured voice and demeanor as well as his considerable acting ability, perfectly brings to life this complex character. Leopold Dilg and Nora Shelley may be somewhat less complex than Lightcap but are no less interesting, and certainly the performances of Grant and Arthur are equal to Colman’s; they are amusing without letting the comedy overshadow the serious side of their characters. Edgar Buchanan also does a fine job in the important supporting role of Sam Yates, Dilg’s lawyer who sometimes comments on the action and sometimes keeps it going.
George Stevens ably directs with a lighter touch and quicker pace than in some of his other films, and the efforts of all involved were rewarded. The Talk of the Town was a critical and commercial success.