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Thursday, August 25, 2016

IN NAME ONLY (1939)

Few films rile up an audience so vehemently as this carefully curated romance between Cary Grant (unhappily married to social sociopath Kay Francis) and the winning widow he meets-cute and falls for, Carole Lombard. Audiences work up a positive lather of disgust watching Francis, who married Grant solely for cash & caché, poison the well to keep his family thinking she’s the wronged party and any chance at happiness for the chaste couple at bay. It’s especially tough on Lombard, raising a young daughter, living with her hysterical man-hating sister and waiting, waiting, waiting for the divorce Francis has promised Grant. And things only gets worse when, in a fit of drunken Yuletide misery, Cary catches pneumonia.* It looks bad, says Doc to father Charles Coburn, even dimmer without any hope to give Grant the will to live. Hope!, exactly what Francis shows up to shoot down! Keep in mind you’re in Woman’s Weepie Land, where incidents & plot twists shock, amaze and generally work to keep the next plot absurdity moving along, and you’ll have a dandy time. And should the level of emotional manipulation offend, focus on Lombard as vanity-free Goddess. (Oh, that's what stars used to be.) Or note the alarming number of continuity errors director John Cromwell let pass.

DOUBLE-BILL: Cromwell had just made the bathetic, if better known MADE FOR EACH OTHER/’39 for David O. Selznick, also starring Lombard & Coburn. In that one, they're waiting for an airplane carrying a vial of live-saving serum for Carole’s little boy. The film’s a dog, but it did get James Stewart, playing her young hubby, on Hollywood’s ‘A’ list.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *It’s fun watching Grant reverse the sickbed routine he’d play in NOTORIOUS/’46 where Ingrid Bergman does the beautiful expiring act. She’s much better at it.

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