Monday, January 23, 2012

"Penny Serenade" 1941

"Penny Serenade"

This was a Cary Grant movie I'd never seen before.  He had more than 75 film credits and most of the ones I'd seen were later in his career.  But he was fantastic in this movie. 

It is the story of a marriage.  Cary Grant and Irene Dunne meet at a record store.  Roger is passing by and a record is skipping.   Soon he is in the story asking to be shown record after record and buying a stack of them.  When he walks Julie home, he has to admit that he doesn't own a Victrola.  And Julie is in love.


They go to the beach.  While sharing fortune cookies, Julie's says "You Will Have Your Wish, A Baby".  She shows Roger who laughs.  Then he sees his which states, "There Is A Wedding In Your Future".  He freaks a little and luckily his back up cookie tells him "You Will Remain A Bachelor".  That is the one he shares.

But the first one comes true.  Soon Roger has a job offer in Japan and marries Julie before he leaves, promising to send for her in a few months.   One romantic night on a train and fast forward.  Julie arrives in Japan, but not alone.  Their night was successful. 

But one tragic day they lose it all.

An earthquake causes a miscarriage and the couple go back to the United States unable to have a child of their own.  They buy a little newspaper and set up house above the office.  Roger soon calls for his best friend and print man, AppleJack.

He is the voice of reason, peacemaker and go to guy.  When the couple are struggling he steps in to take care of business.  He even tells Julie that Roger wants to adopt a baby.  The couple is thrilled to discover it was what they both want.

In comes their guardian angel, Miss Oliver.  She runs the adoption agency.

She might look familiar.  She also played George Bailey's mom.   She reviews the couple's wish list.  They want a two year old boy with curly hair and dimples.  She explains that it could take a year to get a baby but gives them hope.  I don't know if this is how it worked in the thirties or forties, but they seemed to have it easy.

Next thing you know they get a call that there is a five week old baby girl available.  Do they want her?

Roger is hesitant, but Julie convinces him to go take a look.  The baby squeezes his finger and he is a lost cause.

Next thing they are home and trying to figure out how to be parents.

Without a crib, they are setting chairs around the bed.  There is a schedule on the wall detailing every diaper change and feeding.

There is a great moment where Julie is trying to give the baby her first bath.  She freaks out a little and Uncle AppleJack takes over.

Soon they've survived the first year as parents and Miss Oliver comes for a visit.

But when she interviews them to finalize the adoption, there is a problem.  The newspaper has gone under and the family has no income.  They are devastated to learn that they will lose their child.   Roger goes before the judge with baby Trina.  Julie waits at home.

Judge: [Walks into chambers, sees Roger, Miss Oliver, and the baby all seated. Sits at desk] Uh, oh this is the child in question. Ahem, let me see. Yes, I recall looking over these adoption papers. I see you have no income at present.
[Looks at Roger]
Judge: Is that correct?
Roger Adams: Yes your Honor.
Judge: Now what is this Miss Oliver? You know this case should never have come before me.
Miss Oliver: Well your Honor I feel that this is a special case. I kept hoping until the last minute Mr. Adams might be able to resume the operation of his paper or get a job. But unfortunately he hasn't been able to do either, so i thought...
Judge: Under these conditions I can't grant the adoption. This child will have to revert to the orphanage.
[Gestures to Roger]
Judge: Will you draw up a chair please while I prepare these release papers for you to sign? Just a matter of routine.
Roger Adams: If you please your Honor, it can't just be a matter of routine for people to have their baby taken away from them. This child is ours Judge...
Judge: [Interrupting] Those are the requirements of the law.
Roger Adams: Yes but you see we've had her since she was six weeks old. It just doesn't seem reasonable to give her back to-to-to strangers.
Judge: Mr. Adams, you're not here to plead your case. You've had the regular opportunity to prove your fitness to provide.
Roger Adams: We are *fit* Judge if you just look at the record.
Judge: Without any income I have no alternative. Didn't you make that clear Miss Oliver?
Miss Oliver: Yes your Honor I did, but I thought...
Judge: [Firmly] I'm sorry but that is the law.
Roger Adams: Look your Honor, she's not like an automobile or an icebox or a piece of furniture or something you buy on time and when you can't give up the payments they take it away from you!
[Baby starts to cry]
Roger Adams: Now sit still and be a good girl. Anyone could give up those kinds of things, but I ask you Judge how can you give up your own child? And she is our child just as much as if she'd been born to us!
[Baby continues crying]
Roger Adams: Now, now, Daddy's not going to go away.
[Baby stops crying and smiles]
Roger Adams: Look Judge, we've had her over a year now. Why we-we walked the floor with her when she had the colic. We've lost nights of sleep worrying every time she cut a tooth. We've gone through everything, everything real parents have with one of their own. Ask Miss Oliver here about the inspections we've had to have. Her-her weight charts, her vaccination certificates, h-her toys, her toothbrush! How many parents could keep one of their own and
[voice cracks]
Roger Adams: go through that? And you sit here and say it's a matter of routine for you to take her away from us.
Miss Oliver: Please! Mr. Adams...
Roger Adams: I'm sorry Judge, but we weren't as fortunate as most people. We would've had one of our own only-only... well you don't know how badly my wife wanted a child. It wasn't so important to me. I-I don't know, I suppose most men are like this but children never meant a great deal to me. Oh I liked them alright I suppose, but well what I'm trying to say is your Honor the first time I saw her... she looked so little and helpless. I didn't know babies were so-so little. And then she took a-hold of my finger and I held onto it. She-she just sort of walked into my heart Judge
[begins to cry]
Roger Adams: and-and she was there to stay. I didn't know I could feel like that! I'd always been well, kind of careless and irresponsible. I wanted to be a big shot. And I couldn't work for anybody, I had to be my own boss, that sort of thing. Now here I am standing in front of a judge pleading for just a little longer so that I can prove to you I can support a little child that doesn't weigh quite twenty pounds. It's not only for my wife and me I'm asking you to let us keep her Judge, it's for her sake too. She doesn't know any parents but us.
[starts sobbing]
Roger Adams: She wouldn't know what'd happened to her. You see there's so many little things about her that nobody would understand her the way Julie and I do. We love her Judge, please don't take her away from us. Look, I'm not a big shot now, I-I'll do anything, I'll work for anybody.
[Starts to break down]
Roger Adams: I-I'll beg, I'll borrow, I-I'll... please Judge I'll sell anything I've got until I get going again. And she'll never go hungry, she'll never be without clothes not so long as I've got two good hands so help me!
[Camera fades out as Judge, Roger, and Miss Oliver all ponder what has just been said]

His plea convinces the judge to let them keep the little girl. 

There is happiness but it is short-lived.  After a sweet Christmas pageant, we learn that Trina is lost after a short illness.  It drives a wedge between the couple.  Julie prepares to leave Roger.

Julie Gardiner Adams: We don't need each other anymore. When that happens to two people, there's nothing left.

But at the last minute as Roger and Julie are saying goodbye, the phone rings.

Miss Oliver has called to tell them that a little boy has come to the adoption agency just like they wanted.  The movie ends with the couple in each others arms planning for their little boy.

It was a little contrived and things are awfully convenient, but Cary Grant and Irene Dunne are great.  Edgar Buchanan steals every scene he is in.  There is no way this story would work as a remake.  But it is sweet and sad. 

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