Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Consolation Marriage (1931) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

A fine cast elevates CONSOLATION MARRIAGE (1931), a somewhat predictable yet enjoyable marital melodrama recently released by the Warner Archive.

CONSOLATION MARRIAGE was one of several Irene Dunne films recently released by the Archive. I previously reviewed NEVER A DULL MOMENT (1950), in which the marvelous Dunne was just as charming a leading lady as she'd been in CONSOLATION MARRIAGE nearly two decades previously.

In CONSOLATION MARRIAGE Dunne plays Mary Brown, who loves a pianist (Lester Vail). He marries a rich patron, and around the same time newspaperman Steve Porter (Pat O'Brien) is jilted by Elaine (Myrna Loy, 26 and gorgeous).

Steve and Mary meet and hit it off to the extent they decide they'll get married despite the fact they don't love one another; they enjoy each other's company and decide being together beats being alone. They agree there are no questions asked if one of them decides to look for love elsewhere.

Time passes, and Steve and Mary develop a happy married life which includes a pretty house, a large dog, and a cute little baby girl. And then, as only happens in the movies, both of their old loves come back to town on the very same day, hoping to pick up where they'd left off a few years previously. The audience knows that Mary and Steve love each other and are perfect together, but will each of them realize it in time?

CONSOLATION is a gentle, leisurely story, punctuated with occasional laughs shared with O'Brien and Dunne, whose joint sense of humor is one of the things which draws them together in the first place. A pillow fight scene is particularly amusing, as the actors seem to be having genuine fun while the feathers fly.

The viewer can see every move coming from a mile away, yet there's enough different in the telling of this story to make it worthwhile. It's particularly striking that Steve and Mary always act charitably toward one another, even when sad, worried, or jealous. It's just one more reason we know they belong together.

It's interesting that Steve and Mary don't seem to realize for most of the movie that not only have they fallen in love, they actually had narrow escapes from self-centered people who would probably have made them miserable.

Dunne and O'Brien are an appealing team, and they're supported by John Halliday, excellent as Steve's occasional employer, Jeff, who clearly carries a torch for Mary yet does everything he can to bolster her marriage to Steve. As Kim noted in a review at I See a Dark Theater, Halliday has a Roland Young type role -- but Halliday puts his own unique stamp on it, droll but with deeper notes under the surface.

Myrna Loy plays a self-centered miss who does what makes her happy in the moment, yet she too doesn't always act as the viewer expects, particularly when she meets her rival, Dunne.

The film may stick to its expected storyline, but there are interesting little twists along the way. It's those moments, as played by a sharp cast, which make the movie worth checking out.

The score by Max Steiner has a couple of notable moments, including the use of "Brahms' Lullaby" over the opening and closing credits, and some more exotic scoring behind the scene where Elaine reads Steve's name in the paper when she's in Algiers

CONSOLATION MARRIAGE runs 81 minutes. It was directed by Paul Sloane and filmed by J. Roy Hunt. Matt Moore plays Steve and Jeff's friend, "the Colonel." Gertrude Howard plays the maid.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print. There are no extras.

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 from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


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