Friday, August 21, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Without Love (1945) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn star in WITHOUT LOVE (1945), which will be released on Blu-ray next week by the Warner Archive.

WITHOUT LOVE was the third of Tracy and Hepburn's nine films, following WOMAN OF THE YEAR (1942) and KEEPER OF THE FLAME (1942). Tracy plays Pat, an inventor whose heart was broken by an unseen love named Lila. Hepburn plays Jamie, still recovering from her dearly loved husband's sudden death.

Pat and Jamie have a chance meeting in wartime Washington, D.C., thanks to her cousin Quentin (Keenan Wynn).  Due to the wartime housing shortage, Pat is without a place to stay and agrees to serve as a caretaker for Jamie's mansion in return for a place to work on developing his invention to help pilots.

Jamie has been living at her country home but when she returns to Washington, she and Pat realize they have much in common and decide that they will marry in name only; since she has a scientific background, she'll help him with his project and they'll enjoy each other's company. "Without love" in their marriage, neither of them will ever again suffer a broken heart. Or so they think. (For smart people, they're a bit silly...)

Neither Pat nor Jamie count on jealousy -- Jamie of the unseen Lila, and Pat of his old friend Paul (Carl Esmond), who shows an interest in Jamie -- or on falling in love.

I hadn't seen this movie for many years and found it a lighthearted and enjoyable film. The characters are congenial, and the film flows along nicely, providing pleasant company.

The movie's main flaw is that the script by Philip Barry and Donald Ogden Stewart, based on their 1942 play starring Hepburn, retains a strongly theatrical feel; perhaps more importantly, none of the characters' high-falutin' speeches sound like real people. But if one accepts Pat, Jamie, and the characters in their social circle as they were created, then it's an entertaining 111 minutes.

Barry, incidentally, wrote Hepburn's great theatrical hit THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, which Stewart adapted for the screen. A stronger point of their WITHOUT LOVE script is that misunderstandings between the lead characters are kept to a minimum; indeed, Jamie is quite direct with Pat, letting him know when Paul has tried to kiss her. Most of the film is focused on Pat and Jamie getting to know one another, becoming close friends before falling in love, and the "hurt feelings and misunderstandings" section near the end is brief and quickly overcome.

The strong supporting cast works in the movie's favor. Wynn is good as Jamie's cousin, who is finally extracting himself from a longtime "understanding" with shrewish Edwina (Patricia Morison). Morison's underdeveloped character is strictly comic relief, but she's entertaining and has a couple good scenes when Pat tells her off. Lucille Ball, on the other hand, has a more developed role as the new woman in Quentin's life. Lucy was really beautiful in the '40s along with having a good knack for sarcastic line deliveries.

It had been so long since I saw the movie that the details were fuzzy, and I thought Esmond's Paul might turn out to be someone spying on Pat's invention! But nope, he's just there in order to help push Jamie and Pat together.

Emily Massey repeats her stage role as Jamie's feisty housekeeper. Gloria Grahame has a nice bit of screentime selling flowers in a nightclub, and the striking woman wearing flowers in an elevator is Hazel Brooks of SLEEP, MY LOVE (1948). George Chandler is the elevator boy. Donald Curtis (IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA) has a small role as a scientist. Rounding out the cast are Felix Bressart, Charles Arnt, George Davis, Eddie Acuff, and Clarence Muse.

Harold S. Bucquet directed, with black and white photography by Karl Freund. Sets are limited, but overall the film has that glossy MGM '40s sheen which is so enjoyable.

WITHOUT LOVE isn't a great movie, but it's a good one which should be enjoyed by fans of the cast. The Warner Archive Blu-ray is very attractive, with a strong soundtrack. Extras include the trailer, the "Crime Does Not Pay" short PURITY SQUAD (1945), and the Tex Avery cartoon SWING SHIFT CINDERELLA (1945).

Coming soon: A review of Hepburn and Tracy in PAT AND MIKE (1952), which will also be released on Blu-ray on August 25th. Like WITHOUT LOVE, I saw it on TV many times growing up but have not seen it in years, so I'm looking forward to revisiting it.

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


Blogger Vienna said...

Gosh, it’s many years since I last saw this movie and your fine review makes me want to get hold of it again. As you say, good supporting cast for Hepburn and Tracy.

12:17 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope you'll enjoy going back to it when you're able, it was fun for me to see it for the first time in so many years!

Best wishes,

11:55 PM  

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