Monday, April 12, 2010

Penny Serenade

As part of TCM's salute to director George Stevens, they're showing Penny Serenade overnight tonight at 2:00 AM ET. It's one of the moies that shows just how good an actor Cary Grant was, and is not to be missed. Cary Grant and Irene star as a married couple who, at the start of the movie, are on the verge of getting a divorce. Flash back to when they first met to find out why....

Grant plays newspaper reporter Roger Adams, who one day meets Julie Gardiner (Dunne) at a record store. They fairly quickly fall in love and get married, and all seems to be going well. Then, Roger gets an assignment in Japan, which presents a bit of a hardship on Julie, since being a housewife in a foreign country is tough enough as it is, but worse, she's now pregnant with the couple's first child. Still, the two are in love so naturally love can conquer all. Except, that is, for an earthquake. The earthquake injures Julie far worse than Roger, as she loses the baby she's carrying, as well as the ability ever to bear a child of her own. The only possibility to raise a family is adoption. And that's not going to be easy, either, since, upon returning to the States, Roger has decided to try to start publishing his own newspaper. The adoption authorities don't see that as a particularly promising profession for a would-be adoptive father, as they're not sure where the money is going to come from.

Roger pleads with the adoption worker (Beulah Bondi) to let them have a child, and she eventually gives in, but because of the couple's financial difficulties, Roger is going to have to plead again, this itme in court, to be allowed to keep the child. It's only the first of several difficulties that strain Roger and Julie's marriage to the breaking point that we see at the beginning of the movie....

Penny Serenade is a terribly melodramatic movie, but Grant delivers an outstanding performance. It's particularly true when Roger has to fight to keep the baby he's grown to love. Nowadays, Grant is generally more remembered for all his more comic work, but a movie like Penny Serenade shows how capable he was of doing drama too. The result is that he got the first of his two Oscar nominations, although in both cases he lost. Penny Serenade is at times heartbreaking, but also a warm and touching movie about characters who for the most part seem like real people.

Apparently, at some point along the way Penny Serenade fell into the public domain. It's been released to DVD more than a few times, but a lot of the transfers have been horrible. (I can't remember the quality of the transfer the last time TCM showed it.) So, you can watch it any time you want, but it might not be so visually pleasing to watch.

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