Eternally Yours 1939 Directed by Garret Tay. Anita Halstead (a luminous Loretta Young), who lives with her dear grandfather, Bishop Peabody (C. Aubrey Smith), is affianced to Don (Broderick Crawford?!) when taken to a mentalist show by girlfriends. After his mind-reading/future telling act, she and headliner Tony, “The Great Arturo” (David Niven), experience coup de foudre locking eyes across the room. They marry. She becomes his willing stage assistant. Life is successful, remunerative, gay, and mutually devoted.
It’s Anita’s dream to settle in a picket-fence house and raise children, however, while Tony’s is to stay on the road, enjoy high life and the attentions of female fans and journalists. (Anita finds lipstick stains. We don’t question actual fidelity, just the extent of his indulging women.) To this end, she secretly cashes in jewelry he gives her, having paste copies made, sending money home to build a Connecticut house in which she assumes they’ll eventually settle. When she realizes he’ll never defer to her dream, Anita leaves him quickly securing a divorce.
The balance of the film includes Anita’s subsequent wrongheaded marriage, an ocean cruise, her accidentally seeing Tony and his new assistant, presumptions on both parts, and finally, reconciliation. Happy ending. Free with Amazon Prime.
The Stranger 1946 can be found in Stream Selected Films of Orson Welles
The Bishop’s Wife 1948 Adapted from the Robert Nathan novel. Directed by Henry Koster. An absolute charmer. Having difficulty raising money for a new cathedral, Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven), asks for heavenly guidance. It appears in the shape of an angel named Dudley (Cary Grant), who, after convincing Henry he’s legitimate (lovely scene), proceeds to captivate everyone with whom he comes in contact:
Housekeeper Matilda (Elsa Lanchester) bakes for him. The Bishop’s secretary Mildred Cassaway (Sara Hadden) grows feminine. Henry’s daughter Debby (Karolyn Grimes) comes out of her shell. The Brougham’s old friend Professor Wutheridge (Monty Woolley-wonderful) is encouraged to write a book he’d been sure he wouldn’t live to complete.
Taxi driver Sylvester (James Gleeson) has such a good time he refuses to let Dudley or Julia (respectively) pay. Mrs. Agnes Hamilton (Gladys Cooper), primary donor for the edifice meant to glorify her late husband rather than God, experiences a change of heart. Julia (Loretta Young), the bishop’s wife, distanced by her husband’s priorities, enjoys smitten Dudley’s warm attention. The angel conjectures what life might be like if. He’s of course present to help the bishop regain perspective.
Niven was originally cast as the angel, Dana Andrews as the bishop, and Teresa Wright as his wife. When Wright had to bow out due to pregnancy, Andrews was lent to RKO in order to obtain Loretta Young. Cary Grant was brought in, but he wanted to play the angel, so the role of the bishop was given to Niven. Free with Amazon Prime.
Key to the City 1950 Directed by George Sidney. A romantic comedy with two attractive actors playing to audience expectations. Mayors have swarmed San Francisco for their annual convention. Among them are former longshoreman Mayor Steve Fisk (Clark Gable) of Puget City and Harvard graduate Mayor Clarissa Standish (Loretta Young) of Wenonah, Maine. They meet cute when Fisk mistakes Standish for Sheila (Marilyn Maxwell), a balloon dancer with whom he’s set to have a blind date. The nonplussed Standish is identified by Fisk’s companion, Fire Chief Duggan (Frank Morgan), before things go too far.
Fisk is manly, robust and full of gregarious fun. Standish is repressed and married to her job – despite best efforts of an uncle, Judge Silas Standish (Lewis Stone), with whom she lives. Needless to say the romantic interest brings her around. In order to keep the plot from becoming completely pat, between misunderstandings, Fisk deals with corruption in Puget City. Raymond Burr plays the bad guy. Everybody has a good right hook. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Jewel Robbery 1932 Based on the 1931 Hungarian play Ékszerrablás a Váci-utcában by Ladislas Fodor and its subsequent English adaptation, Jewel Robbery by Bertram Bloch. Directed by William Dieterle. Pre-code (not saccharine) froth. Baroness Teri von Horhenfels (Kay Francis) appreciates her husband (Henry Kolker), revels in the extravagant life he facilitates, but is bored. She and married friend Marianne (Helen Vinson) primp, shop, and dress as pastime. (Oddly she doesn’t seem vapid.)
One day, while visiting a jewelry store in order to purchase a 28kt diamond ring, a thief (William Powell) appears with his gang. The stylishly dressed criminal arrives by limousine and carries a phonograph on which he plays music to sooth his victims while he and polished cronies rid them and the shop of its valuables. Chatty and charming, he carries not a whiff of danger. Baroness Teri is enchanted as, one can see, is the robber. They flirt.
Men are locked in the vault, shop owner Hollander (Lee Kohlmar) is reduced to giggly impotence by a marijuana cigarette (pre-code, remember), Marianne is shut into the office. Only the Countess remains. In order to make things look “right,” the thief ties her up.
Returning home, she finds a large floral tribute and then the man himself. Again, they flirt. Instead of robbing her now open safe, he’s returned her ring. The dance that ensues before a wry, tongue-in-cheek is delightful. Powell, who had recently married Carole Lombard, didn’t want to do the film initially, but gave in when he saw the role as amusing. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Man Wanted 1932 Directed by William Dieterle. A sophisticated, pre-code, comedy/romance that never would’ve survived under motion picture restrictions. Lois Ames (Kay Frances) is the high powered editor of 400 Magazine, the kind of A-type character who skillfully juggles work and social life, good to employees and loving with her rich, indolent, polo-playing husband Fred (Kenneth Thomson). The couple, who seem happy, nonetheless live greatly separate lives. She knows his eye wanders, but doesn’t feel threatened.
One day, while salesman Tom Sherman (David Manners), is setting up a rowing machine in her office, Lois fires her secretary (for wanting a personal life). Tom, who wouldn’t you know it is a Harvard man, volunteers to help out. (He takes shorthand.) Attraction is immediate. Once hired, he rapidly rises (we see his checks) in responsibility. The young man rarely sees Ruth Holman (Una Merkel), his low class girlfriend-by-default, becoming a devoted workaholic.
Scenes are filled with almosts, things unsaid, sophisticated behavior.Lois remains habitually devoted to Fred until… Predictable but a pleasant ride. With Andy Devine as Tom’s best friend. Free on Amazon Prime.
Another Dawn 1937 Based on the play Caesar’s Wife by Somerset Maugham. Directed by William Dieterle. Sturm und Drang. On vacation leave from a British desert outpost, Colonel John Wister (Ian Hunter) meets and falls in love with American widow Julia Ashton (Kay Francis). She tells him her marriage to a brilliant risk-taker left her unable to love again, but accepts his proposal on the basis of affection and respect. At the Middle East outpost, Julia meets John’s best friend, Captain Denny Roark (Errol Flynn) and his sister Grace (Frieda Inescort) who’s been in love with John for years, but behaves beautifully.
In fact, everyone behaves beautifully, even when Denny and Julia find the kind of love she thought herself unable to experience again. In between, there’s desert warfare and self-sacrifice. “I don’t do much in it,” said Francis. “Things just happen about me. I am just a wife who has been unfortunate in love, as usual.” Directed with even helm, but the waste of a good cast. Rent on Amazon Prime.
In Name Only 1949 Based on the novel Memory of Love by Bessie Breuer. Directed by John Cromwell. A romantic drama with lighter moments and a good watch. Francis portrays malevolence to perfection. Wealthy Alec Walker (Cary Grant) for some unclear reason is stuck in a loveless marriage to mercenary Maida (Kay Francis) who revels in social status. Smooth, attractive, and mean, she has everyone, including Alec’s parents (Charles Coburn and Nella Walker), convinced they’re a happy couple.
One day, Alec serendipitously meets widow-with-a-young-daughter Julie Eden (Carole Lombard), a commercial artist living in Connecticut for the summer. They spend pastoral days together that include young Ellen (Peggy Ann Garner) and fall in love. (Julie doesn’t know he’s married.) When Maida finds out, she insinuates herself into Julie’s life, sets up her rival’s humiliation, and works at keeping Alec tethered in a way that makes her publicly seem long suffering. There are literally no lengths to which she won’t go. Tragedy hovers, but…
According to Robert Osborne (TCM), the film was intended to reteam Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant However, the disastrous reception of Bringing Up Baby (?!) led to Hepburn being considered “box office poison” and Lombard being cast instead. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Featured photo: A promotional shot of Loretta Young, public domain.