Monday, March 14, 2011

Week-End Marriage

TCM is going to honoring George Brent tomorrow morning and afternoon on his birthday. One of the fun pre-Codes he was in that I don't think I've recommended before is Week-End Marriage, airing at 10:45 AM ET tomorrow.

Loretta Young stars a working girl Lola Davis, who's got a sister-in-law Agnes (Aline MacMahon) and a sweetheart, Ken (Norman Foster). Lola and Ken have thought a bit about marriage, but this being the early 1930s, married women are generally not expected to work, with the husband supporting them. This is a problem in that Ken's boss has offered him a great career opportunity -- that would require he spend a couple of years working in South America. Agnes, who's got more experience, teaches Lola how to get the man to do the things she wants, which in this case more or less means tricking Ken into marrying her. This is a bit of a problem, in that the rest of Lola's family isn't certain they think Ken is suitable for her.

Ken does indeed marry Lola, but their marriage doesn't take the normal path that marriages in those days took. Instead, Ken loses his job and, this being the Depression, finds it difficult to hold down a good job. Lola, on the other hand, has moved up a bit and is now an executive secretary, a job which entails quite a bit of travel, and working with higher-class people like George Brent halfway across the country in St. Louis. It's humiliating to Ken, who faces the possibility of no job and no wife. What's a man to do?

Week-End Marriage presents an interesting situation which, once the Code started being enforced, would rarely see the screen again for decades. To wit, what's a man to do when, through no fault of his own, he's forced to become the househusband? (True, there are movies like A Star is Born where the husband's career pales before the wife's, but there the husband lost his career thanks to his own alcoholism.) Unfortunately, Week-End Marriage resolves the dilemma with a thoroughly unsatisfying ending, ruining an hour of interesting build-up. Still, the movie deserves to be seen for that build-up, for the historical curiosity, and for some of the pre-Code touches. One fun one involves a scene in which Foster is shopping, and you can clearly see that one of the things he's bought is toilet paper. Women may have gone to the "powder room" back in those days to gossip with their lady friends, and people may have tried to escape from buildings through the rest rooms, but Hollywood wouldn't normally let them have bodily functions once the Code got enforced.

Week-End Marriage hasn't even gotten a release through the Warner Archive Collection as far as I can tell. So, you're going to have to record it on TCM if you want to see it.

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