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James Stewart and Carole Lombard meet and marry on impulse while
Stewart is in Boston on a case.
When they get back to New York the two of them go through a lot of the trials that newlyweds do, a seemingly unfeeling and uncomprehending boss, a bitter mother-in-law for Lombard, a new baby and then a sick toddler. I guess the fact that they get through it all is proof that they were indeed Made for Each Other.
Other reviewers have noted some similarities between It's A Wonderful Life and Penny Serenade. They are certainly there. What's not there is the screwball comedy that we remember Carole Lombard for. No laughs in this one, she plays this quite seriously and shows her versatility.
Stewart however is pure Stewart. It's as if Jefferson Smith had gone to law school instead of becoming a Boy Ranger. He's so idealistic and full of hope as he starts married life with Lombard. As he appeals to Charles Coburn for financial help to save his kid, the whole audience in the theaters must have felt along with him.
The two have some problems keeping household staff and when they find one they really like, their budget crunch forces them to let Louise Beavers go. Though it sure has some racial clichés in it, my favorite moment comes from Louise Beavers in that scene with Carole Lombard as Lombard tells her they will have to discharge her. Beavers is a woman with real heart and soul and her words of comfort to Lombard never fail to move me.
For fans of melodramatic soap opera and the two stars. Some may find Made for Each Other too saccharine, but I like it.
I have to agree with other reviews as to the strange mix of genres and bizarre lack of conventional story structure. Normally, in the traditional three-act structure, the basic dilemma is set up in the first act, but in this film, the story just sort of segues gradually into the marriage and then one personal crisis after another, culminating in the illness of the child. In spite of all its shortcomings, Lombard's warmth and vulnerability shine through. I thought Stewart's gradual descent into desperation and self-recrimination strangely prefigured George Bailey in `It's A Wonderful Life.'
Jimmy Stewart and Carole Lombard make an incredibly appealing couple, one
whose everyday middle-class joys and sorrows you like sharing. That's all
there is to the movie, pretty much, Jimmy and Carole get married, have a
baby, deal with in-laws, money troubles, changes in their relationship, all
the things everyone does. It's the opposite of an Action Flick, here
domestic sorrows like pay cuts and not having a baby sitter on New Year's
Eve are treated as seriously as real people treat them, and the movie is
well made enough that you care. Who couldn't care about such nice, funny,
sensitive people? For much of its length, it's a better "Penny
The place where it falls apart is the ending, which is a ludicrously inappropriate melodrama about flying medicine in from thousands of miles away in a storm, it just doesn't belong in the same movie. But, I like the story behind it: Like a character in the movie, producer David Selznick's brother Myron (a power agent) was taken seriously ill, and was basically given up for dead. A doctor said that the only thing that could save him was a rare/experimental drug that wasn't available in LA, it had to be flown in from the east coast in terrible weather. The Selznick family sweated for hours, trying to keep in touch with a heroic pilot who was risking his life to save a stranger. When the pilot landed safely and Myron was saved, David Selznick the workaholic producer said "This it too good to waste on Myron. Let's put it in a picture!" I just wish he'd waited for a better place to use it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Made for Each Other" stars resident scatterbrain, Carole Lombard and
congenial James Stewart as Jane and John Mason, a couple on a whirlwind
romance to nowhere. John works for a curmudgeon judge, Joseph Doolittle
(Charles Coburn), a professional alliance that is at odds with the
effervescence of his newlywed life. A greater hurdle to overcome is
Jane's live in mother, Harriet (Lucile Watson) who intrudes upon the
couple's idyllic domestic paradise with all the tact and humility of
the proverbial bull in a china shop. By the time New Year's Eve rolls
around the edges of martial Shangra-la have become so frayed that both
John and Jane contemplate the longevity of a future together. Their
sudden realization that their marriage may be over, which takes place
amidst the gaiety of romantic couples celebrating the New Year, reaches
a level of heartbreaking poignancy that, alas, the rest of the story
lacks. Financial stresses brought on by a change at work eventually
culminated with a devastating illness that may claim the life of John
and Jane's infant.
Director John Cromwell spins a cinematic tapestry of lives that are the embodiment of those proverbial ups and downs we all encounter in life at least during the first two acts of his story. Cromwell's sprite and accessible direction allows even the sensitive charm and poignancy of secondary characters their chance to shine. Unfortunately for all concerned, the last act of this story is maudlin melodrama and an insane layering of cliché that drives the story into a downward lack of restraint. Though the effervescent triumph of the human spirit is never far from Cromwell's vision for the film, it's ultimately that old fashioned sentiment that salvages the whole affair from becoming overly sweet or dire.
MGM's DVD is impressive. The B&W picture exhibits a very nicely balanced gray scale with smooth, solid blacks and very clean whites. Age related artifacts are present throughout but do not distract. Some minor edge enhancement crops up and there is more than a hint of pixelization in infrequent spots but overall the picture will surely not disappoint. The audio is mono but more than adequate for a film of this vintage. There are no extras.
James Stewart plays Johnny Mason, lawyer. Carole Lombard is Jane Mason, wife. Lucile Watson the mother-in-law Harriet Mason. Johnny sees Jane and quickly marries her. Mother is disappointed. Mother lives with them. Many troubles are ahead. Jane can't cook. Can't set the table. Can't do many things according to mother. The interaction between daughter-in-law and mother are the highlights of this film. Stewart and Lombard are married but just don't have any real magic on screen. Stewart is Stewart. He is good as a timid husband and son but this doesn't carry the film. Can baby Mason build bridges between Jane and Harriet? A believable film for those that are married.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film concerns newlyweds, Jimmy Stewart and Carole Lombard and
their attempt to have a successful and happy life together. The problem
is that repeatedly, Stewart's character is so weak and ineffectual that
the family is always struggling to make ends meet (though they had a
cook through much of the film, so they couldn't be THAT bad off). In
addition, because of his and his wife's weakness, the marriage was
often damaged by Stewart's obnoxious and demanding mother (played by
Lucille Watson, who made a career out of playing obnoxious old
ladies)--who they allowed to live with them despite her being a very
unpleasant person. As far as his job went, Stewart was a young lawyer
who seemed to allow his job to run his life and offered him little
consideration in return.
The acting through all of these ups and downs was terrific and the film rather engaging. And you know that when a movie stars Jimmy Stewart and Carole Lombard, it must be a pretty good film. Well, this is a very entertaining film, but somehow I can't help but think it could have been a bit better. In other words, instead of a better than average film, the movie COULD have risen above this but was hampered by two major problems--Stewart's character was too weak and annoying through much of the film and occasionally this soapy film got so melodramatic that it seemed hard to believe. Towards the end, when their baby got deathly ill, it was at times very touching and well-done--particularly when Lombard cried as well as the scene where Watson apologized and talked about why she was a nasty old crank. But, at others, it seemed pretty heavy-handed and schmaltzy.
All in all, a mixed bag but still entertaining and worth seeing if you are a fan of classic Hollywood films.
This film doesn't have a very clear picture of what it is or wants to
be. There are some good bits when Stewart is on screen and they give
him some lines to work with. It works best early on as romantic comedy,
but the story keeps heading for more dramatic territory and gets itself
lost in the process. By the last fifteen minutes or so, the plot twists
are just a series dramatic clichés.
The part with the airplane feels like some leftover footage from another film spliced in.
The main reason I can think of to watch it is if you want be able to say you've seen all of Jimmy Stewart's films.
Lombard was tired of doing screwball comedies, and still had her eye on
the Selznick ultimate prize, Scarlett O'Hara - but she had to prove she
could handle dramatic parts, to herself and to the public. This film is
low-key, charming in its own way, but rather schizophrenic in plot.
James Stewart is a convincingly earnest young husband and fledgling
attorney who meets and marries the Lombard character in a whirlwind
romance, before the couple comes crashing back to earth with a loud
thud. Baby soon makes three, and Mother-in-Law makes an uncomfortable
four -- in a tiny apartment, with an even tinier household budget.
The plot peculiarities begin on a New Year's Eve -- although in the midst of a huge party, Jane and Johnny don't feel much like celebrating. They argue all the time, and can't really remember what they loved about each other to begin with. Then their baby gets desperately ill, and the plot appears to belong in a different movie. After some pretty dramatic twists, the movie returns to its original focus and becomes relatively normal again.
All in all, a fairly entertaining domestic soaper, until the Plot Twist from Mars rears its alien head. You'll be making faces at the screen, saying to yourself, "Hunhhhh?????"
Made for Each Other (1939)
"Last year there were half a million divorces in this country. Congratulations."
And that is the beginning of a sometimes-screwball comedy that turns very serious by the end, with James Stewart leading the charge. It could be screwier, and Jimmy Stewart is more lovable than hilarious, so the humor revolves around him as the foil. Carole Lombard, his partner in crime, can be more zany, for sure, but even there, she is more restrained than other films (like "Twentieth Century"). It's the situation, and the rest of the cast, who make this funny...and eventually tragic.
How exactly it drags at times is hard to say. Oddly, even Stewart is a little off base, exaggerating too much. The plot, overall, lacks drive. You might think this doesn't matter in a silly comedy, but it does very much. In fact, because this comedy is laced with a fair amount of normal drama, it needs a basic conflict that dramas need. There are some terrific scenes--the New Year's moment is really moving, and the scenes after that--and these are the reason to watch.
On some level, this is a type of drama/comedy that is aimed at new parents, or newlyweds. The couple's focus on the baby reminded me of "Christmas in Connecticut," and "Penny Serenade." I wish it just worked better, but too often it bumbles along, one little moment after another, the result of imperfect direction (John Cromwell) and a weak script. So it does the best it can, and the last half hour is its best, with high drama kicking in. This is a David O. Selznick production in the same year as his slightly more famous movie, "Gone with the Wind."
As a whole, this movie doesn't work at all. Different parts of the
story jump around here and there and fail to form a cohesive piece --
the result of a poorly written script. For instance, halfway into the
movie and you still get no idea of where it is all going. You get a
vague sense that Johnny's (Jimmy Stewart) inability to support his
family and the consequent strain on his relationship with his wife is
part of the main plot, only to be completely thrown off by a new
development in the story, which doesn't fit into the first portion of
the film at all. It's almost like watching two different stories at the
Despite this serious flaw, the film is "saved," so to speak, by its superb cast. Both Charles Coburn and Lucille Watson give their typical character portrayals. Jimmy Stewart gives his usual touching performance that is so well-known to film-goers. Meanwhile, Carole Lombard tries a hand at a dramatic role -- and succeeds. As a wife, she is charmingly believable, and as a mother, simply shines. Thus the unfortunate film is held together -- albeit weakly -- by the performance of the cast. Otherwise there isn't much that would convince one to keep watching. However, it may be worth your time if your main object is to enjoy the performance of either Jimmy Stewart or Carole Lombard, or both.
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