Dames is so fickle, as Popeye might say. Yet again, the anti-voluptuous Olive Oyl (this is not a putdown, merely a reflection of the status of her womanly figure) pits her would-be suitors Popeye the Sailorman and Bluto against each other. The odds, however, are significantly higher, as wedded unbliss looms at the end of the film titled Nearlyweds, released by Famous Studios in the last year of Popeye's theatrical run. The surprise is not that Popeye and Olive flirt so devastatingly close to ending up in the connubial mattress together, nor that Popeye runs about nearly or fully naked for much of the picture, but rather that the film actually holds together and keeps your attention for the duration of its length. This could be because you might think that Popeye and Olive (or Bluto and Olive) might actually end up married by picture's close, but it is called Nearlyweds for a reason.
Popeye proposes to Olive, causing Bluto to do the same, and Olive is "forced" to choose "Eeny-Meeny"-style between them. I say "forced", because she is seemingly quite enamored of the squinty sailor, and seems to perform the game merely as a joke. Popeye says at the outset of his proposal, "Olives, you hask been me girlfriend fer a long, long time", and when Bluto bursts in with his version, there is a large smile on the vixen's face; but whether she solely takes pleasure in the double attention of the lovestruck sailors or considers Bluto's added plea a mere amusement is hard to discern. Regardless, there is no doubt as to the outcome of her "choosing", and she accepts Popeye's hand in marriage, leading to the sailorman's rather acrobatic jump-out-of and back-into his clothing. (Is there foreshadowing with this early appearance of his underwear? Let's discuss...)
Bluto mockingly accepts defeat, and Popeye agrees to meet Olive at the courthouse at 3:00 pm dressed in his "weddin' duds." It is quite apparent that Bluto will do everything that he can to prevent or delay Popeye's arrival, and that is what ensues. What is not expected is that Popeye will spend much of this time naked. The scene cuts to Popeye preparing for a bath, and he dives into his tub directly from his bathrobe, back turned to the audience for discretion. (There is, however, a fleeting moment where it seems that Popeye's ass is visible at the apex of his dive, but a geeky breakdown of the scene reveals his shoulder blades.) Of course, where there is a cartoon bathtub, there is an open window right next to it, and Bluto pops in with a bag of quick-drying cement. Popeye tries to get out of the tub, notices the "hard water", and climbs out with a rowboat-shaped erection of cement encasing his entire midsection. (There is something more than a little weird about this scene.) Because Popeye has been saving up his thrusting for about 25 years for this very wedding night, he easily smashes the statuary with a fierce jab of his groin at the ground. The cement easily crumbles into a large pile that covers up his lower nudity. (Of course, the pinch of spinach that Popeye sneaks probably has the most to do with his escape, but... Come on! The guy has got to be pent up!)
Bluto performs other tricks on Popeye to further delay him: nailing Pop's shoes to the floor and tying knots in his pants' legs; moving the clock hands up to 2:55; and smashing a mirror and jabbing a shaving cream brush through the hole so that Popeye believes that he is in need of a serious shave. All you really need to know is that through an unfortunate rigging of his electric razor, Popeye ends up in his underwear again. He arrives at the wedding clad only in a top hat and barrel (whoever is making all of these barrel-and-suspenders sets for cartoon characters has got to be a gazillionaire by now!); Olive Oyl snubs him for his lack of fashion sense, and all too willingly accepts Bluto's proposal instead. The brute and the bimbo make off for the courthouse, but the oddly familiar man posing as the Justice of the Peace verbally runs off a list of about a hundred bad things that will happen to Bluto once he gets married, i.e. all of the rights and fun things that he will have to give up In the Name of the Wife. Of course, the Justice is Popeye, and he saves his own day (I guess) by frightening Bluto off from marrying Olive, and Popeye picks up where he left off.
All of these hi-jinks reel off in a surprisingly comically logical scroll (at least, for a Famous 'toon), and the film is lightly involving enough to enjoy despite itself. It would have been nice if this had been the final entry in the Famous Popeye series, and they had actually ended it with Popeye and Olive's real wedding, but the cartoon lives up to its title, as I mentioned. But for what is in the cartoon, Bluto's torturing of an oblivious Popeye is good fun, and Popeye's revenge is even better, but it leaves me asking this...
Why is Popeye so eager to jump back into Olive's arms after she snubbed him mere minutes before to marry his rival? And why is he so ready to do so even after he has read Bluto the riot act regarding such a marriage? Why is Popeye unafraid of these same consequences and loss of freedom? What is it that Olive possesses, besides her incredible physical pliability that would obviously make her well-suited to completing every act in the Kama Sutra within a fortnight? And while we are at it -- what would spinach make Olive do were she to ingest it during lovemaking? Popeye's reaction is obvious, but what would it do to the girl? It seems we will never know the answer to this mystery.
But, I'll bet that somewhere beneath that giant skirt and boots beats the heart of a veritable wildcat of sexuality. Think about that the next time you rip on Shelly Duvall...
Nearlyweds (Famous Studios/Paramount, 1957) Dir: Seymour Kneitel
Cel Bloc Rating: 6