Do you get the feeling that when Jack Carson says something, he actually means something else?
Look at the 1951 comedy The Groom Wore Spurs, wherein Carson plays an actor who specializes in Westerns. In one scene, Carson says he’d like to remove his cowboy boots because “they’re a real pain in the arches.” (See what we mean?)
In our opinion, no one can deliver a line like Carson. Carson, in case you’re not familiar, was a popular comedic actor in the 1940s and 50s, but he also did some excellent dramatic work in films like Mildred Pierce.
The Groom Wore Spurs is the male “counterpart” to the 1946 comedy, The Bride Wore Boots. In our movie, Carson owes a large sum of money to a Las Vegas gambler, so he hires an attorney to make the problem go away. This attorney is played by Ginger Rogers.
These two characters couldn’t be better cast or better written. Carson’s character is shallow and obsessed with his movie image. Get this: He wears cowboy outfits with his name embroidered on the back in lasso-type font. On screen he’s a Western Hero, bringing Justice To All. Off screen he doesn’t even remember the plots of his own films.
Rogers, on the other hand, is smitten with the idea of having a Big-Name Movie Star as her client. She remembers the plots of his movies; we suspect she analyzes them in her diary.
Carson explains to Rogers that he lost in a game of dice and signed a $60,000 IOU which he can’t pay. He asks her to fly to Vegas with him where they can approach the gambler (Stanley Ridges) and hopefully settle the debt without violence.
The pair fly to Vegas and meet with the charming and dapper Ridges. He is articulate and pleasant, but when he leaves the table he warns, “Enjoy yourselves. It’s a short life.”
Still, it is Vegas after all, and after a moonlit drive to Hoover Dam, Carson and Rogers suddenly get married. (We didn’t realize Hoover Dam had that effect on people!) But the marriage is off to a rocky start; she suspects he married her just to erase his gambling debt. She storms back to L.A., while he stays in Vegas and gets drunk.
Even though Carson’s character plays a hero onscreen, he is, in reality, a coward. Rogers is braver and smarter than he is, and we feel a bit sorry that she rushed into marriage with such a man.
Sadly, this movie doesn’t end as well as it begins. We are treated to a contrived plot twist, then the whole movie falls apart. It’s like the filmmakers threw up their hands and said, “Whatever.”
However. The Groom Wore Spurs is still worth it because Jack Carson is too much fun. He struts around in his cheesy, over-the-top wardrobe, tossing out folksy sayings in a phoney southern accent. But it’s his double entendres that make us laugh the most.
For example, when Carson checks into a Vegas hotel, he tells the clerk that Rogers “is my [pause] attorney.” He says it as though he can’t believe he hasn’t used this line before.
The Groom Wore Spurs may not be the best comedy from the early 1950s but, in our opinion, it’s a classic example of Jack Carson doing what he does best.
The Groom Wore Spurs: starring Ginger Rogers, Jack Carson, Joan Davis. Directed by Richard Whorf. Written by Robert Libott and Frank Burt. Universal Pictures, B&W, 1951, 80 mins.