Van’s back, y’all…
Who else thinks air travel is fascinating? I do. I like learning about the history of commercial travel because it’s interesting to see how things have changed or not changed over the years. Add in a fun romantic story, though, and it’s even better. 1951’s Three Guys Named Mike is that kind of movie.
Marcy Lewis is a real go-getter, and she’s got her sights set on being a stewardess for American Airlines, and after an initially tepid interview she’s in. Then she’s got to go through training, which is kind of similar to boot camp, because everyone sleeps in dormitories, albeit with more personal items in view, but it’s still pretty regimented. Among the lessons learned are how to serve meals during turbulence (which is harder than it looks, especially in heels), the do’s and don’ts of passenger comfort and in-flight ettiquette.
Everyone in the class passes with flying colors (pun not intended), and then it’s on to their first assignments. Marcy gets to fly to Nashville, and as the story would have it, her cab driver gets a flat tire on the way to the airport. She hitches a ride with a cute guy (Howard Keel) in a convertible, and then things get awkward when she realizes he’s Mike Jamison, the pilot on her first flight.
Things get even more awkward when Marcy forgets to pack the food for the flight and they have to turn around. Fortunately the passengers are very understanding and everyone gets to Nashville smiling, along with some ribbing from Marcy’s coworkers. Marcy might have gotten in trouble for such a big flub, but Mike talks her up to her supervisor and things are peachy.
Marcy and Mike fly together on other trips, and they have a combative but flirty relationship. Because there are other Mikes on the horizon, he will forever after be known as “Pilot Mike.”
The second Mike to show up is Mike Lawrence (Van Johnson) who barely looks up from his book on the flight to Hollywood, even when Marcy tells him the plane is going to be forty-eight hours late. He doesn’t warm up, either, until a little girl sits on his lap and then goes to sleep across from him. He’s studying bioluminescence and will therefore be known hereafter as Scientist Mike.
Mike the Third (Barry Sullivan) looks like a gardener at first. He gives Marcy’s car a push when she and her roommate, Jan (Ann Sargeant) are out looking for a house to rent, and then lo and behold he shows up at the airport in Chicago because he’s in advertising. Naturally, he will be known as Ad Man Mike and also naturally, he asks Marcy to dinner. Marcy is used to guys making passes at her and she refuses at first, but then rethinks things when Jan turns out to have plans with her fiancee, Roger.
Yep, three Mikes. And they all have eyes for Marcy. She’s got a bit of juggling to do.
Or does she? All three Mikes meet when she moves into her house, and they all three eye each other suspiciously. Who will be left standing at the end? Who knows. And how will Marcy keep them straight? That is the other big question.
Oh, and then there’s the photographer who’s taking pictures for Ad Man Mike’s new soap ad campaign. His name isn’t Mike, but he’s still got big eyes for Marcy.
Three Guys Named Mike was kind of a minor film for everyone except for Jane Wyman, who normally played supporting roles or in ensemble movies. In fact, there isn’t a lot of information about the film out there. The reviews of the time were mixed. Bosley Crowther loathed it. Variety did not. Finding something good to say about the movie seemed to be everyone’s struggle. The public was equally “meh,” and box office energy was tepid.
Yes, the story hits all the expected points. None of the Mikes seem to have much to do, although each gets their turn to shine, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I can’t say anything bad about their performances, to be honest, except, that, again, the plot is sparse. We don’t even see much of Marcy’s average workday, but I did get a kick out of seeing the passengers use real plates and cutlery.
My very slight beef with this movie is that Jane Wyman seemed a wee bit old for the part. She was thirty-four when Three Guys came out, and at the time airlines required women to retire at thirty-two, sooner if they got married, pregnant, or gained too much weight. She’s really good, but it’s not quite believable. She has great chemistry with Van Johnson, though, whose Scientist Mike thaws pretty easily.
And I wish more could have been made of the rivalry between the three Mikes. They don’t even meet until the last third of the movie and then they stand around glaring at each other. No bending over backwards to ingratiate themselves to Marcy except for helping her get her house in order. And just the fact that they all have the same name could have been a source for all kind of awkwardness, but nope.
That’s why I wish I could have come into this review talking all about Van Johnson’s great performance, but there just isn’t much to talk about. He’s Van Johnson, he’s charming, he was very popular at the time, but he isn’t anyone but Van Johnson here.
The only other thing I wish could have been better is the transfer. The one I saw on Amazon Prime looked really bad. I had trouble recognizing some of the actors until they opened their mouths and said something. Alas, Three Guys Named Mike is in public domain and doomed to fuzziness.
All that aside, Three Guys Named Mike should get more attention than it does. It’s not long on plot or originality, but what’s there is delightful and there’s a lot of high-altitude and terra firma schtick.
For more of the great Van Johnson, please see Michaela at Love Letters To Old Hollywood. Thanks for hosting this, Michaela–it was a pleasure as always! Thanks for reading, all, and see you on Sunday for the Fredric March Blogathon…
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