Sunday, April 03, 2016

Tonight's Movie: I Married An Angel (1942) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

I MARRIED AN ANGEL (1942) is part of the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy Collection, Volume Two, available from the Warner Archive.

I MARRIED AN ANGEL was Jeanette and Nelson's last film together. Historically it's been considered one of their lesser films, but while that's still probably true, it's nonetheless a good and rather unique film which is very much worth seeing.

The movie was adapted from a 1938 Rodgers and Hart musical. I've never seen the stage production or read the script so can't comment on the adaptation, other than to say that one of the film's weaknesses is the lack of a robust score. The title Rodgers and Hart song is wonderful, as is their classic "Spring is Here," but the rest of the music is fairly forgettable.

What the movie has going for it, along with a couple great tunes, is the charm of the leads and the successful execution of a prolonged dream sequence where everything is more than a little odd.

Count Willy Palaffi (Eddy) is a playboy who owns a bank. He doesn't take work or settling down seriously, to the dismay of his advisor "Whiskers" (Reginald Owen), who wants the Count to mature and marry.

Anna (Jeanette MacDonald) is a sweet bank secretary who has long admired the Count from afar, and Whiskers engineers an invitation for her to Willy's birthday costume party. The only costume Anna can afford is a simple angel's costume. She looks, well, angelic, but in both looks and demeanor she's out of place amidst the elaborately costumed, wild revelers at the party.

After briefly dancing with Anna, Willy leaves the party and falls asleep on a sofa, where he envisions Anna as a real angel named Brigitta. Brigitta immediately convinces Willy they should marry, and after their wedding night Brigitta awakens to find she's lost her angel wings. (One can only imagine the fun the Hays office had with this story!)

Brigitta doesn't understand that the truth isn't always "beautiful," but has the power to insult people, and her penchant for absolute honesty means she ends up giving the lovestruck Willy a very wild time of it, until eventually he awakens, shakes off the dream, and runs out to the garden to propose to the lovely Anna.

I was struck that although Jeanette was nearing 40 when this was made, she in no way looks it. She is enchanting as both the innocent young secretary and her angelic counterpart. Jeanette was always a lovely woman, but she's positively beatific in this, which of course fits the role.

I was particularly moved by the ending; the look of love and relief on Eddy's face when Willy spots Anna where he left her in the garden is quite stirring. You can't help but feel happy when he then begins to sing "I Married An Angel." That kind of joyous "feel good" moment is part of what makes watching the MacDonald-Eddy films so worthwhile.

I was rather impressed with the way the film carries off the dream sequence, which comprises the majority of the film. It manages to capture the capricious, inexplicable craziness of dreams in a sustained way, with nutty throwaway moments like Peggy (Binnie Barnes) "conducting" those around her or the butler (Robert Greig) standing on a chair for no particular reason.

The "chorus" of the Count's five girlfriends was another interesting aspect. Look closely, as Polly is played by Anne Jeffreys, in one of her first film roles, and eventual film noir siren Janis Carter is another of the girls. Inez Cooper, who I wrote about in a review of Tim Holt's BORDER TREASURE (1950), is also one of the girlfriends, along with Mona Maris and Marion Rosamond.

The large cast also includes Douglass Dumbrille, Edward Everett Horton, Leonid Kinskey, and Esther Dale.

W.S. Van Dyke and the uncredited Roy Del Ruth. Van Dyke directed several other Jeanette and Nelson movies, and in fact directed all four of the movies in this DVD collection.

The movie was shot in black and white by Ray June. It runs 84 minutes.

I've previously reviewed two other titles from this set, SWEETHEARTS (1938) and NEW MOON (1940). Still to come, the final review from this set, BITTER SWEET (1940).

The I MARRIED AN ANGEL disc includes the trailer. The very beginning of the film's credits sequence looks a wee bit scratchy and the print struck me as a little faded at some points, but overall it's crisp and clean, without major flaws and with excellent sound.

While not on a par with the sublime SWEETHEARTS and NEW MOON, I MARRIED AN ANGEL is still good fun and another strong reason for MacDonald-Eddy fans to get this wonderful set.

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


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your reviews of the MACDONALD/Eddy films. Hardly anyone writes about them these days.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Vienna! Besides calling everyone's attention to these terrific DVD sets, I'm glad to help spread the word on MacDonald and Eddy in general. I hadn't watched their films in many years and am being reminded with each film how special they were and are. I'd love to see more people give them a try!

Best wishes,

1:47 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for your excellent review, Laura. As a long-time (via my mother) MacDonald/Eddy fan and collector/researcher, I so appreciate you spreading the word about how good they were -- they deserved to be well remembered and are so often snubbed by the sometimes snooty classic film world. Jeanette and Nelson were the Fred and Ginger of MGM, the most successful singing team of all time and certainly amongst the best looking and sounding people ever put on film. Their films single-handedly lifted MGM out of the red and into the black during the 1930s. IMAA was not a big success nor a particular favorite of either of them, Eddy said years later that the censors hacked the story to bits and the result was a mess. In later years, Jeanette would often "forget" to include it when recounting her films with Eddy. However, Woody Van Dyke must be commended for capturing on film the charm, magnetism and rare chemistry of these two enormous talents. Some years back, Joanne Woodward (who is/was a big fan)commenting on IMAA at a MacDonald-Eddy movie retrospective in New York City said; “In love scenes, there is a difference between acting and being. And these two were being.” Woodward felt their off-screen romantic chemistry seemed most evident to her in I Married an Angel.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for taking the time to post such a nice and informative note, Angela. It's always great to hear from another fan of MacDonald and Eddy. Jeanette and Nelson are special to me, and it's been wonderful revisiting their films over the last couple of years. I still have a couple in my stack I need to watch! :)

Best wishes,

6:49 PM  

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