A G.I. and a girl who have known each other three days marry in San Francisco on the eve of the new husband's deployment to serve in WWII. While the husband is overseas, his bride has their baby. THE IMPATIENT YEARS depicts what happens when the family of near-strangers reunites 18 months later.
Lee Bowman plays Andy, the soldier, and Jean Arthur is his wife. Charles Coburn plays Arthur's father. This was originally seen as a sequel to Arthur and Coburn's THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943), which is underlined when Coburn's "theme music" from the earlier film is subtly played in the background during a couple of his scenes. (Coburn and Arthur also costarred in 1941's THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES.) When Joel McCrea, the leading man of THE MORE THE MERRIER, didn't sign on for the new project, the characters were tweaked slightly and Lee Bowman was cast as the husband. Arthur's character, called Janie this time around, still starts out as an uptight slave to a schedule, just like Connie in THE MORE THE MERRIER.
Overall, the film is fun, but it suffers somewhat from a lack of believability. It's natural the couple would be a bit awkward getting to know each other again, but their complete formality upon meeting was simply puzzling, as noted by Bosley Crowther of the New York Times: "The dilemma of the couple is simply one that a healthy kiss would solve, and why one isn't exchanged in the beginning is difficult to perceive."
Andy and Janie end up in divorce court almost instantaneously, but the judge (Edgar Buchanan) adopts the suggestion of Janie's father and orders the couple to relive their meeting and honeymoon and see if they can rediscover what they liked about each other. Can this marriage be saved?
The cast is terrific, making the film worthwhile even if the script could have been a little better. Arthur is always entertaining, although she's saddled with being almost unlikeable early in the film, and I apparently enjoy Lee Bowman more than many film fans, as I seem to come across comments fairly often expressing the opinion he was dull. (Maybe I like him in part because I first saw him years ago in one of my very favorite Rita Hayworth films, 1945's TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT.) Besides Coburn and Buchanan, the movie has great character actors such as Harry Davenport, Charley Grapewin, Grant Mitchell, and Jane Darwell.
Near the conclusion of the film a song is sung by Bob Haymes, who sounds very much like his brother Dick.
Phil Brown plays a nerdy boarder in Janie's house, who has come to think of himself as a husband and father substitute, complicating Andy and Janie's reunion. Brown is probably most famous for playing ill-fated Uncle Owen in STAR WARS (1977), but that role was still "far, far away" in 1944.
The movie was shot in black and white and runs 91 minutes.
THE IMPATIENT YEARS was directed by Irving Cummings. Cummings directed some wonderful Fox movies, including THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (1939), DOWN ARGENTINE WAY (1940), and SPRINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES (1942). Cummings films reviewed here in the past include GIRLS' DORMITORY (1936), EVERYTHING HAPPENS AT NIGHT (1939), BELLE STARR (1941), and THAT NIGHT IN RIO (1941).
THE IMPATIENT YEARS has not had a DVD or VHS release, but it can be seen on cable on Turner Classic Movies, where it airs again next week on October 21, 2009.
Update: This movie is now available on DVD in the Jean Arthur Comedy Collection, a release from the TCM Vault Collection.