Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tonight's Movie: The Perfect Marriage (1947)

THE PERFECT MARRIAGE is a '40s divorce comedy starring David Niven and Loretta Young. It follows in the footsteps of films such as MR. AND MRS. SMITH (1941), THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942), THE BRIDE WORE BOOTS (1946), and Young's own BEDTIME STORY (1941), telling the tale of a long-married couple who contemplate divorce, then realize they really don't want to live without one another.

THE PERFECT MARRIAGE is a solid, well-done film hampered only by the problem that the audience never wants to see Niven and Young's characters contemplating divorce in the first place. The plot premise accepted, the film is fairly well scripted and makes good use of its large cast, particularly Jerome Cowan as their sympathetic friend and attorney, Charlie Ruggles as Niven's wily father, and Zasu Pitts as the wide-eyed, perenially baffled maid. Nina Griffith does a very nice job as Cookie, Niven and Young's daughter; this was her only film.

Also in the supporting cast are Rita Johnson, Eddie Albert, Virginia Field, Nana Bryant, Luella Gear, Howard Freeman, and Catherine Craig. Although he's never seen in full view, the voice of Frank Ferguson is unmistakable as a man having his shoes shined in a nightclub men's room.

Young is staggeringly beautiful at times, particularly in her final scene, wearing a negligee designed by Edith Head. Young and Niven are both charming and appealing, although -- other than happening to say some thoughtless things early on -- Niven has the more sympathetic character; just as in MR. AND MRS. SMITH or THE PALM BEACH STORY, the wife starts to look rather petulant and silly for holding out so long when it's clear her husband really loves her.

A sad side note is that this film on love and marriage was released in January 1947, shortly after a tragic event in David Niven's life; his wife had passed away suddenly in May 1946, following a fall down a flight of stairs at Tyrone Power's home.

The movie was directed by Lewis Allen, whose credits included THE UNINVITED (1944), THE UNSEEN (1945), and SO EVIL MY LOVE (1948).

The screenplay by Leonard Spigelgass was based on a play by Samson Raphaelson. Russell Metty was responsible for the gleaming black and white cinematography. The film runs 88 minutes.

A real plus for the film is the use of Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" melody as the film's theme; it plays during the opening credits and is heard from time to time as background music.

THE PERFECT MARRIAGE is a Paramount film which is only available on VHS. The print is quite lovely except for a couple of faded scenes and a few seconds of end-of-reel roughness. Fans of Niven and Young will likely find it worth the effort to obtain a video of this film, as it's a pleasant hour and a half spent in fine company.


Blogger Dawn said...

I agree.. Loretta, looked gorgeous, playing a career woman in Edith Head fashions. Child actress Nina Griffith, is very cute playing Young and Niven's daughter. Wondeful review.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Terri said...

This sounds like another good one!

7:18 AM  

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