Today is Sunday, so it is time for another 52 Code Films article! Because of this series I created, I have committed to watching and reviewing at least one new Code film every week. The films which count as Code films in this series are American movies released between July 15, 1934, and 1954. This is the era which we call the Breen Era, since it was the time during which Joseph I. Breen was the head of the Production Code Administration. There are so many wonderful classic films which I have yet to see, so I formed this series to make sure that I keep watching new Code movies instead of just rewatching my old favorites. So far, I have watched and reviewed twenty-four movies, not counting the other ten new movies I have watched but didn’t review because I only review the first new film I watch each week. Now, it is time for #24!
Today’s topic is Double Wedding from 1937. I watched this film this afternoon, since I was too busy to watch it earlier in the week. Every month, Rob of MovieRob hosts Genre Grandeur. A fellow blogger chooses a theme, and everyone submits articles with that theme. Since June is the official month for matrimony, Emily of The Flapper Dame chose Wedding Films for this month. I haven’t been able to think of anything to write about the Genre Grandeur topics of recent months, although I have enjoyed participating in this series in the past. This, however, is a topic for which I can easily select a film. Since I didn’t have any blogathons scheduled for this weekend and had no specific plans for which film to watch this week, I decided to make a new Code wedding film my topic for today. It’s hard to know if a movie you have never seen has a wedding in it, unless, of course, it has the word wedding in the title. We have had Double Wedding on our Amazon Prime watchlist for several months as a suggestion based on our other views. I decided that this was just the occasion to watch this comedy with the famous team of William Powell and Myrna Loy. We bought it today and watched it. I think that a film about a wedding is an appropriate topic for Father’s Day, which is a day all about celebrating family. After all, the traditional family, of which the father is such an important member, begins with a wedding!
A domineering businesswoman has mapped out the whole life of her younger sister and the man their mother decided she should marry, a very timid and overly agreeable youth who is a distant relative by marriage. He has been boarding with the sisters for four years while the businesswoman runs their lives and supports all of them with a dress shop she owns. The brash old woman who invested money in her shop encourages her young friend to have more fun in her life and consider the possibility of romance, but the stubborn lady is uninterested in love for anyone except her sister and her fiance. Little does she know that the two youngsters have become friends with a bohemian who lives in an auto trailer in a parking lot and believes that he could direct a brilliant movie with the two sweethearts. The girl believes that she could be a great actress, and he encourages her while balking at the twosome’s subservience to the older sister. The eccentric artist tries to rehearse a love scene between the future spouses, but the diffident youth’s attempts at romantic acting are painful. Frustrated, the director shows him how to do the scene with “yoomph!” Just as he is giving the young lady a very “yoomphy” kiss, her sister walks in. She drags her two wards out after telling the bohemian what she thinks of him. However, the afternoon has left its mark. The director showed so much “yoomph” in his demonstration of the love scene that the young lady finds herself quite infatuated with him, since his strength is very appealing in contrast to her fiance’s timidity. Concerned about her sister’s interest in this frivolous man, the businesswoman goes to his trailer to see him. It is obvious that the free-spirited fellow is attracted to the older sister, despite her contempt for him. To continue their acquaintance, he tells her that he loves her younger sister but agrees to stop seeing her if the older sister will pose for a portrait for him. She agrees, and he tries to win her heart as he captures her image. Meanwhile, his model has employed her butler, a former policeman, to trail him and report his every movement, since she still doesn’t trust him. Does she really hate him as much as she says she does, or does she just dislike that he opposes the order which she dearly cherishes? Meanwhile, the younger sister starts realizing that she doesn’t love the bohemian but just wants her fiance to show that much “yoomph!”
The bohemian artist is Charlie Lodge, played by William Powell. The domineering businesswoman is Margit Agnew, played by Myrna Loy. Her younger sister is Irene Agnew, played by Florence Rice. Irene’s fiance is Waldo Beaver, played by John Beal. The brash old woman who invested money in Margit’s store is Mrs. Kensington-Bly, played by Jessie Ralph. The butler whom Margit hires to spy on Charlie is Keough, played by Sidney Toler.
This film was directed by Richard Thorpe. It was produced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The production company was MGM. The screenplay was written by Jo Swerling, based on an unpublished play, Great Love, by Ferenc Molnar.
This is a poor Code film. I am sorry to give it this classification, since it is essentially very wholesome and full of good, clean humor. There is one line which I found very surprising, and for that alone I would have classified it as fair. When Charlie is discussing painting Margit’s portrait, she, perplexed by his irrational and disorganized lifestyle, seriously asks him, “Do you take dope?” I was quite shocked by this pointed reference to illegal drugs, the mention of which was forbidden by the Code. I am compelled to classify this movie as poor because of a divorce element. In the latter part of the film, we learn that Charlie is divorced. However, he is extremely amicable with his ex-wife, Claire (Katharine Alexander). He is so friendly to her on the telephone that I initially thought the reference to his being divorced was a ruse. Ultimately, it was never denied, so we understand that he was married to this woman. They separated because she was unwilling to adapt to his gypsy lifestyle. This element of divorce was very unfortunate, since it could have easily been avoided. They could have merely been engaged, and she could have left him before the wedding because she realized that she was unwilling to comply with his wishes for their marriage. Divorce and remarriage among the sympathetic leads always results in a poor classification, since it weakens the sanctity of marriage. However, it was more prevalent in the first few years of Code-enforcement. After 1937, the amounts of divorces in films greatly decreased, due to the fact that Hollywood had truly learned to uphold the importance of matrimony. In conclusion, the general tone of this film is very positive and uplifting toward marriage. It does teach the important message that a person shouldn’t enter into matrimony with the intention of changing the other person. If you can’t love a man for who he really is, you shouldn’t marry him. Marriage is about compromise, not controlling somebody else to suit your whims, as both Claire and Margit realize.
I really liked this film. I thought that it was hilarious. I really enjoyed seeing another film with this famous couple. This is the third movie I have seen with them so far, and I look forward to seeing the other eleven films they made together! I love the humorous dialogue and stunts in this movie. I found Waldo’s horrible acting in Charlie’s love scene and nearly unconquerable lack of confidence really amusing. Mr. Powell and Miss Loy both felt that this film was not their greatest work, since both were devastated during the filming by Jean Harlow’s sudden and tragic death. Miss Harlow was William Powell’s fiancee and Myrna Loy’s good friend, so filming of this movie was halted so both had time to recover. Even in what they considered less than their best performances, these actors were marvelous. They truly knew the entertainment creed that “the show must go on.” This movie went on to be a financial success. It is a really great collaboration between these two. It is so interesting to see the usually suave and refined William Powell as a bohemian who wears a striped shirt, a beret, and a fur coat and lives in a trailer!
I recommend this film to my readers. It is amusing, witty, and filled with great acting. It shows a lot of wonderful MGM talent, including a strong supporting cast. The background music by Edward Ward is comical and classic. The direction is stylish and surprising at times. Myrna Loy wears some beautiful costumes in this role. She is always extremely classy, and she didn’t wear one costume which was even slightly indecent. In Wife vs. Secretary, which was made just the year before, there were a few revealing evening gowns. By 1937, indecent styles were no longer the trend. Three years of the Code had cleaned up the fashion! Code-classifying really is nitpicking, but it helps us to have a deeper understanding of the Code, its principles, and its enforcement. I think one should never say, “Where was the PCA when that one went through?” One should always understand that the PCA had a lot to do but that every film was reviewed by two self-regulators. Joseph Breen did not work on every film. He worked on as many as he could, but there were seven other self-regulators, many of whom were a little looser than he was. Also, filmmakers were stubborn. Joe Breen wasn’t a stubborn tyrant. He was an artistic, reasonable man, so he would sometimes allow slight compromises to be made. Everyone had to give a little to make the Code work. If Mr. Breen had been a stubborn censor, the Code wouldn’t have survived. He was no censor. He was an intelligent, reasonable leader of a collaborative organization which helped Hollywood to make the best films possible!
Happy Father’s Day! I hope that all my readers enjoy being with their fathers, grandfathers, and all the other men who have been important in their lives. Also, I wish all fathers who read this a very happy day full of love and appreciation from their children. We can celebrate this day by watching any Code film from the Breen Era. Even if it doesn’t depict any fathers, each film is full of paternal love. Joseph Breen was a father of six who loved his family and was a strong head of the household for them and for his dozens of grandchildren, who remember him as a wonderful man. His work at the PCA was a labor of fatherly love, since he wanted to protect children everywhere from compromising films. He was truly the father of Hollywood, as much to the filmmakers as to the film-goers. He gave the film industry a conscience and firmly held them to the task of decency. However, like a loving father, he was admired and revered as much as he was respected. Thank goodness for fathers like that!
By the way, please join our month-long celebration of Code films, #CleanMovieMonth85! Throughout July, we are going to watch nothing but American Breen Era films, and we are inviting participants to do the same. Writers can join this celebration with articles about their own favorite films and discoveries during the month, and we will republish them on our website. Here’s to 85 years since the formation of the Production Code Administration!
As a special high-point of our month-long celebration in July, we are hosting a blogathon on the first weekend in July in honor of the formation of the PCA and the twenty wonderful years of decent cinema which followed during Joseph Breen’s tenure. It will be called The Favorite Code Film Blogathon. On July 5-7, participants will choose their single favorite Code films and write about why these movies from the era of film decency were so good. Please join!
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This week, I only watched this one new Code film.
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