Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Its a penny serenade in 1941

George Stevens' PENNY SERENADE from 1941 is one Cary Grant-Irene Dunne film I had not seen before, I love them in THE AWFUL TRUTH in 1937 and quite liked them (with Cary's pal Randolph Scott) in MY FAVOURITE WIFE in 1940, but this 1941 I never somehow got around to and it did have a sort of mawkish reputation .... so here it is, and I am rather amazed by it.

As Julie prepares to leave her husband Roger, she begins to play through a stack of recordings, which reminds her of events in their marriage. One is the song that was playing when she and Roger first met in a music store. Other songs remind her of their courtship, their marriage, their desire for a child, and the joys and sorrows that they have shared. A flood of memories comes back as she ponders their present problems and how they arose ....

Grant is a surprise here with his family man role, quite different from the sophisticated characters he usually played, and has a great scene when the judge is going to take their child back because of his lack of income. Irene Dunne is natural and warm and often quietly funny as she is in many of those movies of hers that we like, like Margaret Sullavan she should be a lot better appreciated now - they never play a false note. George Stevens, as in GIANT and others, creates marvellous moments as we follow our leads through the ups and downs of family life and the sadness which is part of the whole damn thing, as she has a miscarriage.due to an earthquake (well-staged) when they are in Japan - and one knows something awful is going to happen to their adopted girl at that Christmas play, which teeters on the edge of mawkish sentimentality. It is a bittersweet story dealing with infant death and possible divorce, and how some couples just have to have children to be complete, and the ending seems quite far-fetched but I suppose believeable for that Forties audience. Edgar Buchanan and Beulah Bondi provide solid support. 


  1. Yes, Irene Dunne was one of the essential stars of the 1930s, initially as a star of tear-jerkers like BACK STREET (1932) and then as a comedienne in THEODORA GOES WILD (1936). During his early days as a romantic leading man, Cary Grant partnered Katharine Hepburn (HOLIDAY, BRINGING UP BABY), Jean Arthur (ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, TALK OF THE TOWN) and Irene Dunne. PENNY SERENADE provided Grant with one of his only Oscar nominations (the other was for NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART; he was never nominated for a comedy). And you should see Dunne in one of her last film performances, also directed by George Stevens: I REMEMBER MAMA.

  2. Indeed, and thanks again for sending me that I REMEMBER MAMA disk some years ago. I just will have to dig it out of the pending pile.