Monday, July 08, 2013

They Did

Jeanine Basinger has written a number of fascinating books about the movies, but I don't think I Do And I Don't is one of them.  The subtitle explains why: "A History Of Marriage In The Movies."  Marriage is a mainstay in Hollywood film, it's just one of its less interesting subjects, and thus Basinger has written one of her less interesting books.

Movies are great at the chase--and that includes a man going after a woman, or vice versa.  But once they've got each other, that's when THE END appears.  So almost all great romances and romantic comedies are about a couple trying to get together.  Living happily ever after is death on the screen.

Of course, most "marriage" films Basinger discussed about about marriages in trouble, but even there it's not necessarily a great comment on marriage as it is on other issues, like adultery, or money or whatever motivates the plot. In addition, these films are not usually about stars doing their best work.

I mean, look at Cary Grant.  A film like Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is a perfectly enjoyable domestic comedy, but it can't compare to His Girl Friday or Bringing Up Baby or The Awful Truth. (Even Penny Serenade, a superior melodrama about marriage, is not in the same league.)

Or Astaire and Rogers.  They made ten films and only in two or them are they married--The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle and The Barkleys Of Broadway--two of their less distinguished works.  When they're a couple, much of the spark disappears.

Perhaps the trouble with the book is best summed up by the couple on the cover--Carole Lombard and Jimmy Stewart from Made For Each Other. In the film, they meet and get married early. He's a lawyer but doesn't make partner and they have trouble making ends meet.  The big finish deals with a fight to get serum delivered to save their baby.

The film flopped, and I can see why. Not just because it's a downer, but because there's so much more we can expect from these stars.  It's 1939, they're both at the top of their game.  This is the Lombard we saw not so long ago as the queen of screwball in My Man Godfrey and Nothing Sacred.  This is the Jimmy Stewart who'd soon come up with Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Destry Rides Again and The Shop Around The Corner.  We don't need to see them in a dreary picture about a troubled marriage.  And I'd rather read a book about those other movies as well.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't suppose you're the first Guy down on marriage.

3:47 AM, July 08, 2013  

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