THREE HEARTS FOR JULIA is a silly but agreeable romantic comedy set against the backdrop of World War II. I suspect I liked this better than some reviewers, simply because I enjoyed spending 90 minutes in the company of Melvyn Douglas, Ann Sothern, and some pleasant orchestra music.
The plot is a fresh spin on the old plotline of a couple divorcing and reuniting. Jeff Seabrook (Douglas) has spent much of his marriage to Julia (Sothern) traveling throughout Europe, chronicling the war in newspaper columns and books. Julia, the concert master of an all-female orchestra, is tired of a long-distance marriage.
When Jeff returns home from Europe anticipating a happy reunion, Julia springs the news that she wants a divorce. The rest of the movie chronicles Jeff's attempts to dispatch Julia's other suitors (Lee Bowman, Richard Ainley) and win her back.
It's all been done before, but Douglas and Sothern make the most of their roles. Sothern is stuck with a part where her character lacks sufficient motivation; her husband having a job that takes him away doesn't seem like a good reason to split up, and she's downright rude when he returns and finds a bunch of women have taken over his home. Sothern does her best to keep Julia likeable, and Douglas is fun as the frustrated husband.
Julia's desire for her own career is lightly touched on; it still resonates as an issue today. The women's orchestra is an interesting aspect of WWII, when women filled many roles for men who were away at war; the conductor (Felix Bressart), a war refugee, is sometimes frustrated by the women's multi-tasking but ultimately comes to appreciate them.
The orchestra added a fresh twist to the story which made it more interesting for me. I also enjoyed hearing various familiar pieces of music, especially the concluding folk medley. How the actresses did "faking" playing, I'm not so sure, but the MGM Orchestra made it sound good!
Look closely and you can spot Marie Windsor and Jacqueline White, leads of the 1952 film noir classic THE NARROW MARGIN, as members of the orchestra.
Another face from THE NARROW MARGIN is Jeffrey Sayre, who plays a man in the balcony at the opera; Sayre had 324 credits in bit parts over the course of four decades.
Personable Marietta Canty plays Julia and Jeff's maid, Mattie. Some viewers may remember her as Dora in DEAR RUTH (1947) and DEAR WIFE (1949) or as Delilah, the Banks family maid in FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950) and FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND (1952). Canty was in 40 films including SUNDAY DINNER FOR A SOLDIER (1944)and DREAMBOAT (1952); her final film was REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955), after which she retired. She passed away in 1986.
The supporting cast also includes Marta Linden, Reginald Owen, Eve Whitney, and Ann Richards. Perennial butler Robert Grieg shows up for a couple brief scenes towards the end of the film.
A random comment: Why is it that so many movies show eggs stored in bowls rather than egg cartons? I've been trying to find out when cartons came into widespread use but haven't found a date yet. Melvyn Douglas pulls a bowl of eggs out of the fridge in this film, and even in films of the '50s, such as THE KILLER IS LOOSE (1953), the eggs are refrigerated in bowls. The foodie in me is wondering whether the bowls were used for asthetic reasons, simply because they were more attractive on film, or if cartons weren't used at that point in time.
This movie was directed by Richard Thorpe. It was shot in black and white.
THREE HEARTS FOR JULIA is not available on VHS or DVD, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies.
As noted at IMDb, the TCM print is 90 minutes long. Other prints -- referenced by IMDb, Leonard Maltin, and others -- run just 83 minutes. My educated guess is that the shorter prints edit out a couple concert sequences.
The trailer is available at TCM here.