Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Double Wedding (1937)

I'm a huge fan of William Powell and Myrna Loy, but I have to admit that DOUBLE WEDDING, which I just watched for the first time, is on the low end of their many successful films together. While it's always a pleasure to have Powell and Loy on screen together, the plot, writing, and casting were all on the weak side in this film.

Powell is unsuitably cast against type as Charlie Lodge, a scruffy vagabond who lives in a trailer, while Loy plays the chain-smoking dress shop manager who spends most of the movie believing she despises him. Florence Rice wasn't particularly appealing as Loy's impressionable sister, and John Beal was tiresome as Rice's milquetoast longtime fiance. Jessie Ralph and Katharine Alexander breathe some needed life into their scenes, and Donald Meek shows up for a quick scene, but they're not enough to save the film from being a disappointment.

I love screwball comedies, and have enjoyed all of Powell and Loy's other comedies, but this one felt forced, and I particularly noticed it was filled with visuals which were supposed to be funny but were just unappealing: Powell in silly clothes, Powell with ink on his finger, Powell with a napkin tied around his face, Powell with paint smeared on his face, Powell with a framed portrait smashed over his head, etc. I kept expecting to learn something about Powell's character that would make him more appealing, but the best that could be said about Charlie was that he was nice and had a good relationship with his ex-wife. But what was the point? It was hard to imagine what Loy saw in him, or he in her, or what their future together would be like. Which I can't imagine saying about any other Powell & Loy movie! I feel a bit disloyal even criticizing this one, but there you have it.

What's more, the title is a misnomer: there actually isn't any wedding at all in the film, let alone a double wedding.

There is a sad back story to the filming of DOUBLE WEDDING: Powell's fiancee, Jean Harlow, who was also a close friend of Myrna Loy, died while the film was being made. The production was shut down for several weeks. Loy wrote in her autobiography, BEING AND BECOMING: "I wasn't at my best during DOUBLE WEDDING. It had more slapstick than most of my comedies and seemed hell to make... I hated that picture, although I may never have seen it. Perhaps it became the scapegoat for concurrent despair; during the filming, Jean Harlow died, leaving Bill and me absolutely devastated."

DOUBLE WEDDING was filmed in black and white and runs 87 minutes. It was directed by longtime MGM director Richard Thorpe.

DOUBLE WEDDING has been released on DVD and VHS.

DOUBLE WEDDING can also be seen on TCM. The trailer, which is about as silly as the movie itself, can be seen here.

August 2017 Update: DOUBLE WEDDING has been reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.


Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

And see, I liked it so much because Powell was so silly. My favorite part of the film is the final scene where everybody and their brother seem to be in that little trailer and everytime something happens the four drunks break into song. I really liked Double Wedding, although I agree some of it may have been forced, precisely because of the tragic circumstances. Powell also was ill for a time during filming. But I still love it.
But then... I am also an avid fan of the Stooges. So my opinion may be suspect. :)

5:45 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

You know, I think you put your finger on some of my discomfort with the film -- a lot of it was 3 Stooges type humor, and I'm not a 3 Stooges type. :) I like screwball mayhem as well as the next person -- the automat scene in EASY LIVING comes to mind as one example, or the wacky train scene in PALM BEACH STORY -- but I lean more strongly toward the funny repartee that Bill & Myrna do so well. My favorite of their films is LIBELED LADY, which I've watched countless times. (That fishing scene with William Powell...!)

I'm looking forward to revisting the other movies in the Powell & Loy set!!

Best wishes,

4:16 PM  
Blogger VP81955 said...

I saw "Double Wedding" at a revival house some years back, and it didn't quite grab me to the level of other Powell-Loy films; it wasn't the added reliance on slapstick (you see that a lot in "Love Crazy," a far better film). I sense Loy was right when she said Harlow's death cast a pall over production (one, because Jean was so beloved by everyone at the studio, and two, because of her relationship with Powell). Well, even Bill and Myrna are entitled to an occasional misfire, although it's sad that it came under such circumstances.

8:52 AM  

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