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Sunday, December 28, 2014

COME LIVE WITH ME (1941)

It’s no more than a pleasant mediocrity (a half-developed script from M-G-M’s backlog?), yet it’s probably Hedy Lamaar’s best outing from a brief A-list run that barely covered WWII. As a Viennese war refugee involved with a married man (Ian Hunter), she’s about to get booted back to Nazified Austria when she meets-cute with on-the-bum author James Stewart. She needs a husband; he needs a check. You can guess the rest. But Clarence Brown helms without the forced tone you usually get in these formula dramedies; plus there’s a neat gimmick in the plot that could have raised the bar (and the temperature) if only someone had taken the time & effort. (Stewart was being rushed thru a couple of final productions before starting military service.) Back to that missed opportunity of a gimmick: Ian Hunter plays a book publisher and Verree Teasdale is not only his wife, but also his top book scout. Believing herself happy in their ‘open marriage,’ she has no idea that Stewart’s auto-biographical manuscript is all about her husband’s actual mistress. If only this situation had been expanded, or if the Teasdale role had been cast with a stronger star. (Especially since Lamaar actually connects with her co-stars here.) Say, a Ruth Chatterton or a Kay Francis. (On stage, Teasdale’s character would have been the starring role for a Kit Cornell or a Gertrude Lawrence.) Still, fun to improve this one in your head as you watch, and, as a bonus, a tremendous, throwaway gag involving Stewart and what he thinks is a naughty piece of ladies’ undergarments.

DOUBLE-BILL: Stewart calls his book WITHOUT LOVE, a title picked up by Philip Barry two years later for his companionate marriage play. On B’way w/ Katherine Hepburn; then filmed with Kate & Spence in ‘45, and as forced an outing as he ever wrote.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The old gal playing Stewart’s aphoristic g’ma is Adeline de Walt Reynolds in her film debut at 78. She’d rack up 37 more credits over the next two decades.

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