Saturday, May 28, 2016

Tonight's Movie: In Name Only (1939) at UCLA

The second Carole Lombard film I saw at UCLA Thursday evening, following TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942), was IN NAME ONLY (1939).

Both films were part of a double bill on the last night of the series Independent Stardom on Screen: Freelance Women in Hollywood.

IN NAME ONLY costars Cary Grant and Kay Francis. I began watching Grant's films at a very young age; I began tracking the movies I watch around age 11, and IN NAME ONLY is one of the earliest titles on the list. It's always been a film I especially enjoy, with appealing stars in an engrossing and romantic story. It's one of those movies which seems to me to epitomize 1930s movie glamour.

With Lombard and Grant in the leads, the unsuspecting might expect a comedy, but this is actually a serious drama; one might say it's downright soapy, but in the very best way.

Julie (Lombard) and Alec (Grant) "meet cute" in the countryside, when he helps her with a fishing line caught in a tree. They quickly develop a friendship which includes going on picnics with the widowed Julie's little girl Ellen (Peggy Ann Garner).

Alec, however, is remiss in not informing Julie that he's married, which she learns when he's injured in an auto accident near her home. She soon also learns that Alec's wife Maida (Kay Francis) married Alec for his money and social position, and he's miserable.

Maida turns on the charm in front of all their family and friends, especially his parents (Charles Coburn and Nella Walker). They can't understand why Alec is so unhappy with her, not knowing the real Maida.

Maida finally agrees to a divorce and heads for Europe with his parents, where she plans to tell them the news and take care of the legalities, or so she says. Maida always has another trick up her sleeve; meanwhile the unsuspecting Alec and Julie plan for a happy future...

This is one of those movies which reels the viewer in from the opening scene and hangs on until the very last moment. Lombard and Grant are lovely and quite touching, whether he's blushing over nursery wallpaper in their future home or she's trying to give him the will to live.

They're matched by Francis, simply splendid as the manipulative wife. Her moments playing the loving, patient, and faux bewildered spouse in front of his parents are vastly entertaining. It's a great part, and she makes the most of it.

The film builds to one of my favorite little moments in the movies, when Francis as Maida finally gives away the game to Alec's parents. The audience at UCLA gasped right along with Alec's mother (Walker). It's delicious and very satisfying.

Peggy Ann Garner, most recently reviewed here in A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1946), is adorable as Lombard's little girl. She was six or seven when this was filmed.

Another actress I'm always glad to see, Katharine Alexander, plays Julie's sister, reeling from a divorce. Jonathan Hale and Helen Vinson are also in the cast.

IN NAME ONLY was directed by John Cromwell, who that year also directed Lombard in another tear-stained marital melodrama, MADE FOR EACH OTHER (1939).

The movie was filmed in black and white by J. Roy Hunt. The screenplay is by Richard Sherman, based on a novel by Bessie Breuer. The film runs 94 minutes.

IN NAME ONLY is available on DVD from the Warner Archive. It was also released on VHS.

2 Comments:

Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

Love this movie too, I thought when you tweeted your rave the other night that it was your first time seeing it. Nice acting, especially from the ladies, who don't overdo anything. Francis is fabulous.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad to know you're also a fan! I was so excited to see it on a big screen the other night. :) They're so good, aren't they?!

Best wishes,
Laura

11:05 PM  

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