Henry's Fonda Lucille
It is said that Lucille Ball was upset that her performance in "The Big Street" was over looked when it came to the Oscars, but I know why. The reason why is that whilst Ball's delivers some sharp dialogue, humour and emotional drama the character is too uneven, but then again "The Big Street" is an uneven movie which a mix of comedy and drama which doesn't fit. It's a shame because "The Big Street" is a case of the individual elements work but they don't work together so whilst a funny line or a quirky character will make you smile it doesn't fit with the dramatic underbelly of one man's devotion to a woman who treats him like rubbish.
Little Pinks (Henry Fonda - Drums Along the Mohawk) is just a bus boy working in a club run by Case Ables (Barton MacLane) but it doesn't stop his from being secretly in love with Ables' girl Gloria Lyons (Lucille Ball - Stage Door) and when Pink saves Gloria's dog he becomes her loyal friend. So loyal that when she suffers an accident which leaves her paralysed it is Pink who sends her flowers anonymously, pays her hospital bills and cares when everyone else has given up on the self centred Gloria. In fact so devoted he pushes Gloria in a wheelchair all the way to Florida because Gloria demands it and he continues to loyally serve no matter what whether she is cruel to him or goes on about the wealthy man she will get in Florida.
So as already mentioned "The Big Street" pretty much fails because it is an uneven mix of things which never come together in a focussed manner. As such the whole storyline of Pinks being delusional devoted to the equally delusional Gloria is an entertaining one but when you then get something whacky such as Pink pushing Gloria to Florida in a wheelchair it doesn't feel right. It is a shame because strip away the humour and there is plenty of decent drama in the story none more so than a doctor telling Pinks that Gloria's depression comes from her living a lie and no longer can keep the lie going, faced with the reality of her situation. Although the drama at the end of the movie is both a surprise and a surprise too much which feels seriously out of place.
But then if you were to strip away the seriousness of "The Big Street" and focus on the humour which is how the movie kicks off then it could have been an entertaining farce. The variety of supporting characters provides plenty of amusement especially Eugene Pallette and Agnes Moorehead who are hilarious when it comes to the opening scene featuring an eating competition. In truth "The Big Street" made me smile more than I expected and it almost became annoying when all of a sudden it would switch into drama mode.
As for the lead performances well firstly Henry Fonda plays it straight, never once delivering humour but as Pinks he seems an extreme character, too much of a sap who puts up with too much abuse to be believable. And then there is Lucille Ball who delivers both drama and humour which separately are good but together makes her character as uneven as the movie. It is a delight to watch Ball do drama and watching her deliver depression and the spitefulness which comes from it is brilliant.
What this all boils down to is that "The Big Street" is a movie which suffers because it is too uneven with a miss match of comedy and drama which jars. And it is a shame because split down it all works, just never together.