Saturday, December 06, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Come Live With Me (1941) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

COME LIVE WITH ME (1941) is a charming MGM romantic comedy starring James Stewart and Hedy Lamarr. It's available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Stewart plays William "Bill" Smith, a struggling writer whose life is changed by a chance meeting with Johnny Jones (Lamarr). Johnny is an Austrian refugee who is going to be deported back to her native country unless she marries an American in a hurry. Johnny offers Bill an income so he can afford to keep writing if he will marry her so she can remain in the U.S.

Unknown to Bill, Johnny loves publisher Bart Kendrick (Ian Hunter) and hopes to marry him once he divorces his wife Diana (Verree Teasdale). Of course, once Bart is free Johnny will need to divorce Bill as well!

In one of those fun "only in the movies" coincidences, Bart reads Bill's manuscript, which is based on Bill's unusual marriage to Johnny, and realizes the heroine seems very familiar...

It's quite an enjoyable film, particularly the last third, when Bill takes Johnny to visit his grandmother (Adeline de Walt Reynolds) on the family farm. There's a bit about fireflies and flashlights which is really delightful and is the thing I've remembered most about the movie over the years.

To be sure, it's not a completely perfect film; for instance, Johnny's initial love for Bart had seemed quite sincere, and the sudden transfer of her affections to Bill is not one hundred percent believable, partly because Bill is a rather cranky character.

Stewart doesn't have much screen time to convey his charming side and romance Johnny, so the audience accepts Johnny falling for him partly on the basis that, well, he's James Stewart. So of course she must love him! It's interesting to me how movies sometimes draw on audience goodwill for an actor, with the viewer "filling in the blanks" for an underdeveloped character.

I also wondered if the U.S. would really deport a refugee from a war-torn country whose life would be in very real jeopardy if she returned, but if such questions were answered logically we wouldn't have this movie to enjoy!

I've seen this film on multiple occasions over the years, but the last time was back in 2006. One of the things I find enjoyable about classic films is how repeat viewings look a little different as the context changes.

For instance, last time I saw this film I wasn't that familiar with the work of Verree Teasdale, who has a very good role as Bart's understanding wife. Since then I've enjoyed her in films such as DR. MONICA (1934) and DESIRABLE (1934), and I even happen to have visited her gravesite earlier this year.

Likewise, in years past I knew Ian Hunter from THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), but in the last few years I've enjoyed much more of his work, including films such as ANOTHER DAWN (1937) and most recently GUNS OF DARKNESS (1962).

COME LIVE WITH ME was directed by Clarence Brown, who directed a film which I reviewed just last week, PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE (1952). Brown's films also included titles such as LETTY LYNTON (1932), THE HUMAN COMEDY (1943), NATIONAL VELVET (1944), and THE YEARLING (1946).

COME LIVE WITH ME was photographed in black and white by George Folsey. The script by Patterson McNutt was based on a story by Virginia Van Upp, a writer behind several films I've enjoyed, including THE CRYSTAL BALL (1943) and COVER GIRL (1944). The movie runs 86 minutes.

Lamarr has an exquisite wardrobe by Adrian. The dress with matching hat which she wears to the country and the pinafore dress she changes to after arriving at the farm are perfection.

The supporting cast includes Barton MacLane, Frank Faylen, Donald Meek, and Edward Ashley.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


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