Monday, December 31, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Made for Each Other (1939) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The marital melodrama MADE FOR EACH OTHER (1939), starring Carole Lombard and James Stewart, was released on Blu-ray and DVD last month by Kino Lorber.

Kino Lorber has rescued MADE FOR EACH OTHER, seen for decades in poor public domain prints, with a beautiful restored release. Kino Lorber's website says it's "a brand-new HD master from a 2K scan of the restored fine grain master."

I saw MADE FOR EACH OTHER as a teenager but, despite my liking for the lead actors, I had not revisited it in the years since, partly as I remembered it being rather sad and partly because of poor print quality.

It now looks terrific, and as it turns out it's also a better film than I remembered. Yes, it has its sad and frustrating moments, but it's also the touching story of two young people working to surmount difficulties with career and family.

Lombard's career took a more serious turn in 1939, as she branched out from starring in screwball comedies. MADE FOR EACH OTHER was followed in short order by two more melodramas, IN NAME ONLY (1939) with Cary Grant and VIGIL IN THE NIGHT (1940) with Brian Aherne; I saw the latter film at the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival.

Lombard's costar James Stewart was nearing the top of the career ladder, having starred in Frank Capra's YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU (1938) the previous year; MADE FOR EACH OTHER was followed by a bumper crop of films in 1939-40 including MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939), DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (1939), THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940), THE MORTAL STORM (1940), and THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940), which netted him a Best Actor Oscar.

In MADE FOR EACH OTHER Lombard and Stewart play Jane and John Mason, who as the film begins have impulsively married shortly after meeting. John's domineering mother (Lucile Watson) doesn't take kindly to the news, collapsing when she's told, and John's law firm boss (Charles Coburn) isn't happy either, pulling John and Jane off the ship as they're about to leave for their honeymoon so that John can handle a trial.

As time goes on the Masons deal with financial frustrations and difficulties due to John's lack of career advancement, and living in close quarters with John's nagging mother is also a challenge. One New Year's Eve, they wonder if they made a mistake marrying, but their baby boy's sudden illness quickly changes their perspectives.

I enjoyed this superbly acted, sensitive movie quite well. Lombard and Stewart are as good as one would expect, charming yet increasingly weighted down by problems which begin to seem insurmountable. There are also joys; the scene where Lombard walks out of her doctor's office in a daze, having just learned she's to become a mother, is delightful.

The characters of the mother-in-law and the boss threaten to become stock caricatures, but at the same time they represent problems faced by many couples, so in the end it works. A scene where the exhausted Jane sits on a sofa feeding her baby while her mother-in-law fusses in the background is particularly well done.

I adored Louise Beavers in a small role as Lily, a maid who is able to tolerate not only the mother-in-law but not being paid. When Jane feels she's drowning in problems, Lily wisely counsels Jane not to let the seeds spoil the watermelon, but to spit them essence telling her you only live once and enjoy every moment possible, despite the co-existing problems. One can't help but feel uplifted after watching the warm-hearted, kind Beavers in this scene.

The supporting cast includes Donald Briggs (perfectly smarmy as John's office colleague), Eddie Quillan, Ward Bond, Esther Dale, Harry Davenport, Alma Kruger, Robert Elliott, Olin Howland, and Nella Walker.

MADE FOR EACH OTHER was directed by John Cromwell and filmed in black and white by Leon Shamroy. The screenplay was by Jo Swerling and an uncredited Frank Ryan, based on a story by Rose Franken (CLAUDIA). It runs 92 minutes.

Extras include the trailer and an audio commentary by Lee Gambin.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


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