February 2019 kicks off with the Fondathon hosted by the cool blog Sat in Your Lap and I had to write for this one because my love for Henry Fonda started when I was very young. However, instead of writing about my love for the movie that made me love him, I decided to write a piece about a film that is an oddball with still great performances: 1942’s The Big Street co-starring Lucille Ball.
The Big Street is based off a short story called Little Pinks, which is the nickname for Henry Fonda’s character (real name Augustus Pinkerton II). The plot is a bit looney: demanding showgirl Gloria Lyons (Lucy) becomes paralyzed after her nightclub owner boyfriend Case Ables (Barton Maclane) pushes her down a flight of stairs after a show. Left with no money after medical expenses, she then relies on busboy Pinks to take care of her.
Pinks takes care of her out of the goodness of his heart and even though he is treated poorly by Gloria- he never wavers to be there for her. He even calls Gloria “Her Highness” when attending to her and his devotion goes so far as to push Gloria in her wheelchair from New York to Florida- that’s right, push her wheelchair– so she can recuperate in better weather.
Now reading what I just said, some of you may think, “who wants to watch Henry Fonda be treated like a slave and put up with it“, however, I believe below the surface there’s a lot of depth to the characters of Gloria and Pinks; and that this movie proves Lucille Ball is a real actress- as her character is so unlikable.
I truly can see in this movie that Gloria does care for and may even like Pinks- in a very, very elementary-school I like you but am too proud to say it way. Gloria is a showgirl, and has that attitude of one. Pinks is a humble busboy and shows undying loyalty. The best example of this is when after he leaves Gloria’s service to return to being a busboy once in Florida he rushes back to her side once she becomes seriously ill.
In all honesty- I’m not even sure what makes this movie watchable, but it is. Maybe its the character actor supporting cast (including Agnes Moorhead), or maybe Henry Fonda saves the day with devotion and adorableness. Personally, for me, what makes it worth watching is the chemistry that is evident between Ball and Fonda- it’s what made me want to see this one in the first place. Its not like the connection in Yours, Mine, and Ours (their 1968 reunion film) but there is something between them that is so clearly present in their scenes together- no matter how badly Pinks is being treated. (NOTE: I’m not sure if this is due to the fact they dated before this movie was made- but I think it’s evident Fonda still had a crush on her in real life)
All in all- the film does deliver with good performances and is worth checking out- even once. And when all is said and done- it’s young Henry Fonda- and that’s always worth a watch!