Saturday, August 4, 2018

Eternally Yours

1939 is commonly referred to as Hollywood's greatest year. A movie from that year that is generally overlooked is Eternally Yours.

Anita (Loretta Young) is the granddaughter of Episcopalian bishop Peabody (C. Aubrey Smith), and is having a luncheon with some of her girlfriends when her boyfriend Don Burns (Broderick Crawford in a very early role) shows up to pick her up for an afternoon out. They go to see a show from master magician Arturo the Great (David Niven). He's so magical that he's able to steal Anita's heart right out from under Don.

Fast forward a year and a half, and Anita is working as her husband's partner in those illusions that need a lovely woman as the magician's assistant. They're currently performing in London, which one assumes is home for Arturo, although it certainly isn't for Anita. She's decided that she'd like to settle down, and to that end has had plans drawn up for a small country house in the middle of nowhere in Connecticut, or at least as middle of nowhere as you can get there. She's especially unhappy that Arturo talked himself into an escape act involving being handcuffed and thrown out of a plane!

Not that Arturo wants to do that. Arturo feels he needs to keep making money to make Anita happy, and to that end he's signed the two up for a two-year tour. (The movie was released in October 1939, after World War II had already begun, so presumably this world tour wouldn't take them to Europe.)

At any rate, they set out on the tour, but when they get to South America, Anita decides that she's had enough, and that she's going to go home to get a divorce. (Well, actually, she has to go to Reno and serve Arturo the divorce papers, but Arturo could only get the slow boat back to the States.) Anita gets the divorce and marries Don, while Arturo is stuck doing vaudeville-type shows. Until a charity function winds up with his meeting Anita again, giving him a chance to win her back.

Eternally Yours is one of those competently-made movies that unfortunately winds up adding up to less than the sum of its parts. I think that's in part because so much of the material feels formulaic, in that we've sen this type of story before. A big entertainer falls in love, and then has to decide whether the love can survive a life on the road. I think the most recent post I did on such a movie was for There's No Business Like Show Business a few months back, but I can think of a bunch of movies in the genre. Eternally Yours feels like everyobdy is going through the motions, which is a bit of a shame because it actually has quite a bit of star power in the supporting roles: C. Aubrey Smith is criminally underused, and when you see names like Billie Burke, ZaSu Pitts, and Eve Arden on the second card, you might expect a lot.

Not that Eternally Yours is bad; it just feels like it could have been better. The movie is available on DVD, though, so you can watch and judge for yourself.

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