Like Romantic Comedy Movies? Have I Got One For You!

A fabulous one comes on TV tomorrow night, Thursday, April 10th. No, I'm not talking about What Women Want or When Harry Met Sally. I'm talking about a much older movie, one made in 1941.

"Come live with me and be my love" begins a sonnet by Christopher Marlowe. Someone at MGM had a brilliant idea of taking the first four lines and applying it to a little film they were making, one so obscure it doesn't even have a movie poster. (I had to get this still from someone's Web site.) But it's absolutely charming.
The movie, running a scant 90 minutes, stars the gorgeous Hedy Lamarr as an illegal alien who took her considerable financial assets (she lives pretty good) out of "what used to be Austria" and is hiding in New York, where she takes the ordinary name of Joanna "Johnny" Jones. James Stewart, tall, lanky, and not at all bad-looking in his younger years, plays a down-on-his-luck struggling writer named William Smith. They meet by chance, and then the fun starts.
I admit that I borrowed the "Smith and Jones" angle for my 2003 romance Closer Than Close, where I named the heroine and hero Ivy Smith and Ray Jones. As for the rest of the story, it did inspire me to outline an as-yet-unsold project that probably would have sold had I been willing to give my heroine a more frivolous reason for her behavior . . . which would have been silly. I liked Johnny's reason. This movie proves that it's possible to mix the serious (Europe was waging a war in which the U.S. was not yet involved when this film was made in 1941, which plays a major role in Johnny's actions) with the lighthearted, with wonderfully real results. My favorite scene - aside from the very last - is when Jimmy Stewart's milkman gives him romantic advice. He says he's an expert, that he and his wife have eight children. Jimmy Stewart, clearly looking impressed, says, "You really are an expert," in that wonderfully understated way of sexual innuendo movies of the era hinted at. It's not a bad way to spend an hour and a half.
Watch it on Turner Classic Movies at 8:00PM Eastern, 7:00PM Central, and see what I mean.


Gwyneth Bolton said...

This movie sounds like fun. I have to admit I love romantic comedies, but I'm not as schooled in earlier films as I would like to be. I joke all the time that I'm cool from the 1970s on anything before that I haven't got a clue when it comes to movies, music and other pop culture.


Anonymous said...

It depends on what time it comes on whether or not I check it out. New episodes of CSI & Without a Trace comes on. I'm hooked on those shows...but I do love a good romantic comedy.

bettye griffin said...

No one can blame you for knowing more recent romantic comedies, Gwyneth. There's a ton of them out there! I try to watch them whenever they come on TV myself. There's something about watching a well-put-together movie that helps me write better.

Shelia, I know how it is when a good show comes on. I admit to giggling whenever I see Anthony LaPaglia on Without a Trace, which my husband often watches. For some reason I can't get his hilarious portrayal of Simon Moon on Frasier out of my head. Every time I lay eyes on him I expect to see him staggering from too much alcohol and/or speaking with the dropped "h's" of the lower-class Brit. Usually I don't have such a problem relating an actor to his role, but he made a real impression on me.

DonnaD said...

I watched the movie last night and it was quite amusing. My hubby liked it too; he was especially impressed by the prayer of Jimmy Stewart's grandmother character (I had to help him write it down). For such a short film, it moved very quickly and told a wonderful story.

I think the film could have been a wee bit longer; there were several instances where I wanted to have more of the characters relationship filled out. I found it rather odd that the publisher was jealous of Johnny's marriage, considering she was only doing it to stay in the country. But the best scene for me was when the publisher's wife realized that her husband was having the affair and called him on it. She was so civilized it was ridiculous! And when he said, "You're swell," I laughed out loud. If that movie had been written today, that scene would have been so different!

In fact, I couldn't sleep last night trying to rewrite the story to fit a movie in today's climate. And if it were a novel, I'd call it "Strictly Business."

Thanks for the heads up. It saved me from another boring night of TV.

bettye griffin said...

Donna, I'm so glad you enjoyed the movie! I liked the grandmother, too. Would you believe that was her first film, at the advanced age of 78? That actress lived to be 99 years old.

This was also the last film for the actress playing the publisher's wife, who was in her late 30s but devoted to her husband (also an actor) and child, so she retired from the screen.

I think the publisher understood Johnny's motives were pure; it was Bill Smith's motives he didn't trust!

My favorite scene was in the publisher's office and the publisher, talking about Bill's plotline and how he should have the girl marry the older man, said "There's nothing in the way but -" only to be interrupted by his secretary, announcing, "Mrs. Kendrick," giving the sentence an eerie conclusion.

My hubby watched the latter half of the movie with me. I hate watching movies with him, he always predicts what's going to happen. He did it again, but of course since I'd seen it before it didn't matter.

I reacted the same way you did the first time I saw this movie, trying to work that theme around a contemporary story, but a novel instead of a movie. Cross your fingers that I'll eventually be able to place it!

DonnaD said...

I think I figured it out as a screenplay for sure, but even as a novel. The trick is how to make Smith's career to intersect with the publisher without Jones knowing about it. And for it to be more contemporary, I think that Smith and Jones would have to live together platonically. Oh, I've got it worked out. Want to collaborate? :)

bettye griffin said...

I did something a little different with the story, Donna, but I'll e-mail you!