Consolation Marriage (1931) is the story of two good, loving people in love with a pair of the most selfish, careless people on the planet. Steve Porter (Pat O'Brien) is engaged to Elaine Brandon (Myrna Loy). He has been out of the country, trying to build his career; he returns to find his great love has married a wealthy man. Mary Brown (Irene Dunne) is in the same situation - musician Aubrey (Lester Vail) has found a patron interested in him in more than a business way, and he has consented to become her husband.
Steve and Mary find kinship, not only in their grief, but in their senses of humor. On a lark, they decide to marry. Each understands it is not a love-match, and they agree that should either become dissatisfied with the relationship, they will part, with no hard feelings. But the business relationship quickly become more intimate, with the result being a young daughter, the light of both their eyes. Only one problem - both Aubrey and Elaine are back, and they want to start over.
This is a very adult without being smutty; it's obvious that Steve and Mary are intimate, and the end of the film, when Mary has to decided between Steve and Aubrey is the stuff of precode films. But it is delicately handled, with our couple becoming supportive spouses, people that we as the audience genuinely liked.
Like Mary and Steve's friends, we realize they are in love with each other, and that the image of Elaine and Aubrey they have concocted is an idealized version. They are not able to see the reality of their lovers. John Halliday as their friend Jeff is just great here; he's a really good man who knows they are in love (he comments that only Mary and Steve don't know it), and does his best to keep them together. We loved the scene where Jeff and Steve joke about Mary's Shoppé (with the accent on the final e!).
We enjoyed seeing Myrna Loy again appear as the temptress. She's even a blonde here. It's not often one gets to see Ms. Loy doing the platinum thing. But the golden locks fit her predatory, golddigger image.
The film very much reminded us of Smart Woman Again, we have a woman fighting for her marriage. And both have John Halliday as the supportive friend. We also have a film with a great wardrobe. The picture above will give you a peek at the lovely gowns worn by Dunne and Loy. Max Rée, who was the costumer here, worked as costumer and art director until 1935, then didn't work again until 1947's Carnegie Hall. You'll also get some great views of old New York. We enjoyed this one. We hope you do too.