Easy Living (aka Interference) (1949): Jacques Tourneur’s Moody Drama, Victor Mature, Lucille Ball, Lizabeth Scott

Star professional quarterback Pete Wilson thinks nothing of his future after football, not even after longtime teammate Bill “Holly” Holloran is released by the team.

Pete gets advance after advance on his salary from Anne, the secretary of team owner and coach Lenahan.

One day, going secretly to see a doctor, he learns that he has heart condition due to a childhood bout of rheumatic fever, and that it might kill him if he continues.

He starts to tell his wife Liza, but changes his mind when she is cool to Holly, whom she refers to as a has-been.

Liza is struggling to make her own interior design business a success, and drags Pete to a fancy party to try to land Gilbert Vollmer as client. Gilbert knows she has no talent, but he is interested in her for other reasons. So is his father, Howard, who’s looking to replace his young girlfriend, Billy Duan. Liza is willing to do whatever it takes to further her ambitions.

Meanwhile, Pete is disappointed when his friend, retiring college head coach Virgil Ryan, cannot recommend him as his replacement because Liza is unsuitable for the duties of coach’s wife. Instead, the job is given to Pete’s teammate and friend, Tim “Pappy” McCarr. Tim offers Pete the position of his assistant, but Pete turns it down.

Pete then turns in a poor performance and loses the next game. Lenahan cannot afford another loss if he wants to make the playoffs (and earn $100,000), so he benches Pete for Tim. Tim plays well, and they win their next game.

Though Anne has made it clear that she loves him, Pete decides to take Liza back, making it clear, however, that it will be on his terms.

Compromised Ending:

The film was originally meant to end with Mature’s character leaving his wife for Ball. However, it was rewritten so that Mature stayed with his wife.

The film was based on a screen story by Irwin Shaw, “Education of the Heart,” which RKO purchased in April 1946. In June, Robert Sparks was assigned to produce and Charles Schnee to write the screenplay. In May 1948. the title was changed to “Interference.”

In May 1948 RKO announced that Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum would play the leads, but that did not happen. Instead, the male lead was assumed by Victor Mature, who was under contract to Fox but was obligated to make another movie at RKO. Good year for Mature, who was also announced for the lead in Samson and Delilah. He would end up playing Mr Whiskas, which became Gambling House.

RKO was then at a turbulence, after Howard Hughes had bought the studio and head of production Dore Schary resigned. As a result, films such as Battleground, Bed of Roses and Setup were all cancelled.

Tourneur called the film “a hard one,” because he had no interest in football and did not like his work on it.

The film was not released until October 1949, under a new title, Easy Living. The delayed release hoped to cash in on the publicity for and success of Samson and Delilah, which came out in December.  However, a commercial flop, the film recorded a loss of $625,000.

Cast
Victor Mature as Pete Wilson
Lucille Ball as Anne, Lenahan’s secretary
Lizabeth Scott as Liza Wilson
Sonny Tufts as Tim “Pappy” McCarr
Lloyd Nolan as Lenahan
Paul Stewart as Dave Argus, a reporter
Jack Paar as Scoop Spooner
Jeff Donnell as Penny McCarr
Art Baker as Howard Vollmer
Gordon Jones as Bill “Holly” Holloran
Don Beddoe as Jaeger
Richard Erdman as Buddy Morgan (as Dick Erdman)
William “Bill” Phillips as Ozzie, the trainer
Charles Lang as Whitey
Kenny Washington as Benny
Julia Dean as Mrs. Belle Ryan, Virgil’s wife
Everett Glass as Virgil Ryan
Jim Backus as Dr. Franklin (as James Backus)
Robert Ellis as Urchin
Michael St. Angel as Gilbert Vollmer (as Steven Flagg)
Alex Sharp as Don
Russell Thorson as Hunk “Eddie” Edwards (as Russ Thorson)
June Bright as Billy Duane, who commits suicide when Howard Vollmer discards her
Edward Kotal as Curly
Audrey Young as Singer