Friday, March 28, 2014

Joan B. Leaves Home

Joan Bennett and Henry Fonda star in I Met My Love Again (1938).  We meet Julie Weir and Ives Towner while Ives is in school.  He and Julie are deeply in love and wish to marry, but Ives has been convinced by his mother (Dorothy Stickney) to delay the wedding until he is a success.  Two years later, the couple are still engaged, and Julie is frustrated by the delay.  Caught in a storm one night, she seeks refuge in the home of Michael Shaw (Alan  Marshall), and it is lust at first sight.  Julie and Michael elope and move to Paris.  Three years later, she has reason to regret her hasty marriage: Michael refuses to work, they are in debt, have a young daughter, and he is constantly partying.  Those parties prove his downfall - Michael is shot and killed while playing "duel" with another guest.  For the next seven years, Julie attempts to work as a fashion designer.  Finally, a letter from her Aunt William (Dame May Whitty) pulls her back to Vermont and to college professor Ives.

Joan Bennett is excellent in the role of Julie.  She has to literally grow up in front of you, starting as a naive 18 year old and morphing into the 30ish mother of a young child.  This is one of Bennett's last roles as a blonde.  The same year as this film, she reverted to her natural brunette color and never looked back.  She is stunning with dark hair, and her resemblance to sister Constance is minimized.  We have her husband Walter Wanger and Tay Garnett, the director of her film Trade Winds to thank for the change.  It also resulted in a change to her career, making her more appealing as a femme fatale in such films as Scarlet Street, The Woman in the Window and the recently discussed The Housekeeper's Daughter. 

Some really wonderful character performances are highlighted in the film.  First and foremost is Dame May Whitty as Aunt William, the aunt we all want to have in our family.  As is often the case, Dame May gets the best lines in the film.  When the obnoxious Mrs. Towner comes to find out why Julie is back, Aunt William finally loses her temper: "The next time you come for tea, I'll have rat poison in it".  And Stickney is really good as the mother from hell.  You wouldn't want to have the family that Ives has. They are all pieces of work, and the actors do a good job of demonstrating that.  Henry Fonda's role is somewhat weaker than we are used to from him, but like Bennett he does a good job in growing the character from youth to maturity.

Some of our group were not familiar with Alan Marshall, who plays the ne'er do well Michael.  Marshall had a long career, appearing in films and on television until  his death in 1959 of  a heart attack.  At the time, he was appearing on stage with Mae West in Sextette. Also in the cast is Louise Platt, whose most famous role was of Lucy in Stagecoach.  She left the screen for ten years (between 1942 and 1952), returning to do some television, including a year on the soap opera The Guiding Light.  Her only scene with Bennett (which comes at the end of the film) is a doozy.  Watch for it!

Next week, we'll be back with a film from the 1950s.





2 comments:

  1. There's no question that Henry Fonda was one of the greatest actors of his time but I must admit, Bennett really showed her acting chops in this film. Wouldn't you agree? I'm a big fan of Joan and of course her sister Constance but Joan could tackle any role and genre, very convincingly.
    As you mention her age of 18 on. She was very believable as she transformed into a woman.
    A big fan of the film so glad you gave it a wonderful review.
    All the best!
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    1. When we see a film like this, which has virtually fallen off the face of the film scene, it's always nice to know others have seen it and enjoyed. Thanks for your comments

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