Easy Living: Jacques Tourneur’s Noir Melodrama, Starring Victor Mature, Lucille Ball, Lizabeth Scott

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Jacques Tourneur directed Easy Living, a moody noir melodrama set in the sports world, starring Victor Mature, Lizabeth Scott and Lucille Ball.

Tourneur called the film “a hard one” because he had no interest in football, and he considered it a “a very bad film.”

The film is known for featuring the real-life Los Angeles Rams football team.

Star professional quarterback Pete Wilson (Victor Mature) does not think about his future after football, not even after longtime teammate Bill “Holly” Holloran (Gordon Jones) is released by the team. Pete gets advances on his salary from Anne (Lucille Ball), the team owner’s secretary and coach Lenahan (Lloyd Nolan).

Going to his doctor (Jim Backus), he learns about heart condition due to childhood bout of rheumatic fever–it could kill him if he continues play. He starts to tell his wife Liza (Lizabeth Scott), but changes his mind when she is cool to Holly, describing him as has-been.

Liza is struggling to make her own design business a success, and drags Pete to a fancy party, trying to get Gilbert Vollmer as  client. Gilbert knows she has no talent, but he is interested in her, just like his father, Howard (Art Baker). The older man is looking to replace his young girlfriend, Billy Duane, and Liza is willing to do whatever it takes to further her ambition.

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

Pete turns in a very 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 in favor of Tim. Tim plays well, and they win their next game.

When Pete proposes to take the assistant coaching position, Liza breaks up with him. However, when she gets dumped by Howard, she tries to get Pete back. Pete is given another chance when Tim is injured, but ultimately he tells his teammates about his condition and walks away from the game.

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

The film was originally meant to end with Mature leaving his wife for Ball. However it was rewritten during the shoot.

The film was based on screen story by Irwin Shaw, “Education of the Heart.” RKO purchased it in April 1946, and Charles Schnee was set to write the screenplay. In 1948 the studio announced Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum as the leads, but the plan did not materialize.

Mature was under contract to Fox but had obligation to make a movie at RKO. He was also announced for the lead in Samson and Delilah, which would be filmed after Interference.

There was turbulence at RKO at the time, after Howard Hughes had bought the studio and production head Dore Schary resigned.  The film was not released until October 1949, with a new title, Easy Living. The delayed release helped cash in on the publicity for Samson and Delilah, which came out in December, but the movie turned out to be a commercial flop, with a financial loss of $625,000

In November 1949 writers John Stone and Frederick Bond claimed Easy Living was based on their story “Never Say Die,” which they had submitted in 1947. They sued RKO, the story editor and Shaw for $150,000 in damages.

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)

Note:

TCM showed this movie on September 26, 2021.