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Happy Ever After

Happy Ever After (released in the U.S. as Tonight's the Night) is a British comedy released in 1954. We start in an old Irish village. The town has all come together to see the patriarch of the town, General O'Leary, jump his horse over a wall (something he apparently does on an annual basis, with mixed results).  This time the General's horse balks and throws him over the wall. As he lies on his deathbed he cancels all debts owed to him and leaves money to several people close to him. The bulk of his estate is to go to a nephew who doesn't live in the town, Jasper O'Leary.

Jasper is played by David Niven, who has a ton of t.v. and movie credits including Around the World in 80 Days, a few of the Pink Panther movies, and an uncredited cameo in the Hope & Crosby Road to Hong Kong movie. Also arriving back in the village at this time is Serena, played by Yvonne DeCarlo. Most people know her as Lily Munster, but she has a lot of credits to her name as well. She was also in a Road movie (Road to Morocco) and was in Burke's Law, which David Niven also appeared in. Serena was once engaged to the town's doctor (played by Robert Urquhart who was in The Curse of Frankenstein among other movies and t.v. work) but jilted him. Her sister Kathy is also in love with Dr. Flynn, but he hasn't shown much interest in her. With Serena back, he falls instantly in her clutches once again.

Serena however recognizes a kindred spirit in Jasper, who she immediately identifies as a cad. In fact, after the good doctor has caught her and Jasper together alone and subsequently forbidden her to see Jasper, she sneaks out to spend the night with the O'Leary heir. Serena is the only one in town who has taken to Jasper though. As he confesses to Serena, he intends to "squeeze the lemon dry".  He begins to call in all the debts that the General cancelled, on the grounds that the debts were in writing but the cancellations were not. He fires his staff, cancels the hunt that his family had sponsored, and does anything he can to make the townsfolk dislike him. And   so it is that everyone decides that something must be done about Jasper O'Leary.

Several men of the town get together to decide who will take care of Jasper. They draw lots, but when simple minded Terence is chosen no one trusts his ability to get the job done. So different pairings of townsfolk decide to take matters into their own hands, but no one talks to anyone else about these decisions.  This leads to people stepping all over each other in their attempts to eliminate O'Leary, the failed assassination attempts being some of the funniest moments in the movie. Finally comes O'Leary Night, the night when the founder of the town and the O'Leary family is said to walk the ancestral home in his ghostly form.  Everyone decides this would be the perfect time to take Jasper out of the equation, not knowing that Jasper has plans of his own or that the General had also made some contingency plans in case Jasper turned out to not be good for the town.

This is definitely a movie worth watching. The performances are all strong, most of the gags are pretty funny, and every time Yvonne DeCarlo is on screen your eyeballs will pop out of your head at how gorgeous she is.  Even for bits that you see coming from a mile away, they are played in such a way as to tease and build up so that they are funnier than you think they are going to be. The characters are all likeable, even as they are plotting murder. Even the villains of the movie, Jasper and Serena, are fun to watch and engaging.  The movie also looks great. It's an independent movie made in Britain, but looks very much like the Hollywood movies of the same time period.  If you are looking for a fun, light hearted romp, this is the movie for you (murder plots and ghosts not withstanding).


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