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Loved "That Uncertain Feeling" (1941)! Here, a superb, substantive, yet
oft-times simultaneously silly, screenplay (adapted from the stage)
meets first-rate actors. (The beautiful Merle Oberon is at her comedic
best.) What makes this a must-see film is the palpable pathos swirling
just beneath it all. In lesser hands (actors and writers all) this
might've fallen into the snidely melodramatic or the mildly comedic.
By the by, who says the feeling man is dead? The reviews give credence to the fact that-- whether in their teens, twenties, or, like me, in their fifties-- men enjoy romantic comedies as much as women. I suspect that any polls showing otherwise are eschew for the very reason that too many films today use a "straw man," where the male lead isn't much more than duplicitous, a nitwit, a heel (or all three). In "That Uncertain Feeling," a certain maturity and balance rules the writers. Sure, men AND women's flaws come to the fore, but as (or more)importantly, both sexes' attributes are on show, too, to boot. If the writer creates, equally, humorously offensive male and female characters, then it actually mirrors the real world while not playing partisan sexual politics. Do that and movie theatres will be swarming with women AND men, maybe like in days of old...like those when I, too, was young.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THAT UNCERTAIN FEELING is based on a French play by Victorien Sardou.
He was the leading French dramatist for most of the 19th Century, but
his specialty of "the well made play" was lampooned into oblivion by
later writers (most notably George Bernard Shaw, who labeled such
carefully plotted works as "Sardoodledum"). Actually, like such good
20th Century dramatists as Terrance Rattigan, a really good drama can
survive it's structural mechanics if the characterizations stand out to
be true. Sardou's serious plays (like his historical plays) are too
stiff to work today. But his lighter fare might still be able to work
Lubitsch reset the story into modern New York. Melvin Douglas is married to Merle Oberon, and is a successful attorney. But their seemingly happy marriage has hit a dull spot. He is not aware of this but she is noticing his idiosyncrasies, and finding some too annoying for words: His habit of sticking his finger into her middle (playfully, of course) and saying "Keex" drives her up a wall. She tries a popular psychiatrist (Alan Mowbray, in a kind of reprise of a similar role from Lubitsch's DESIRE). Then she goes to an art gallery and meets eccentric pianist Burgess Meredith. He is a man who seems more full of sour, but honest, opinions about everything than he has musical talent. He goes from picture to picture telling Oberon what is wrong with each. "That painting won't live.", he declares of one work. Oberon, who can barely keep looking at it, says, "Thank God for that!".
Meredith, with his sour view of most things, is soon ruining one of Douglas's business dinners (for a bunch of Hungarian businessmen, led by Sig Ruman). Douglas has a first rate Hungarian meal, complete with goulash for his guests, and even teaches - or tries to teach Oberon - to say a Hungarian toast for their guests. But Meredith dominates the evening, by insisting on playing a classical piece of piano music, and then 19 variations he has composed on it.
Gradually Douglas tries to restore his marriage, but finds Oberon in a deep commitment to Meredith. This leads to one of the best scenes when Douglas and his partner Harry Davenport try to stage an act of cruelty against Oberon for divorce purposes. To do this they have to have Eve Arden as an unsuspecting witness to an escalating argument leading to a slap in the face. But each time Douglas can't bring himself to do it, until he basically downs two or three drinks. In the meantime Arden keeps noticing that Davenport (supposedly giving her dictation) is actually doing everything over and over again, including snapping his fingers at the moment that Douglas and Oberon are supposed to start their argument.
The film ends with Oberon considering the good and bad points of Douglas and Meredith, to reach her conclusion about who to stay with. It is an obvious choice, perhaps, and it may seem to take her too long to decide, but the three leads give bright performances (supported by Davenport and Arden and the others). Not on the level of THE MERRY WIDOW or NINOTCHKA, but worth watching for some satisfactory chuckles.
Enjoyed this Classic Comedy with outstanding veteran actors who must have had fun making this film way back in the 1940's. Merle Oberon,(Mrs. Jill Baker),"A Song To Remember",'45, had problems with her hiccups whenever she got upset about things in her life and also the fact that her husband use to poke (keek) her in the stomach, which greatly annoyed her. Jill took these problems to her physician, Alan Mowbray,(Dr. Vengard)," I Wake Up Screaming",'41, who finally found out a solution for her problems. Jill Baker also runs into a crazy pianist and artist, Burgess Meredith (Alexander Sebastian),"Rocky V",'90, who seems to stop her problems with hiccups. However, Jill's husband, Melvyn Douglas (Larry Baker),"Hud",'63, begins to become curious about her relationship with this artist, pianist and all crazy and wild sorts of situations start happening through out the picture. This is definitely a Classic comedy film and if you love to see Merle Oberon act in an entirely different role, this is a good film to view and especially if you are a fan of Modern Art.
In "That Uncertain Feeling", good performances by the three lead actors give
some life to a rather simplistic story. It is a mildly amusing movie, but
there isn't enough to the plot or the script to make it any more than
Melvyn Douglas and Merle Oberon play a married couple who seem to be reasonably content, but a chance meeting between the wife and an eccentric pianist (Burgess Meredith) suddenly threatens their whole marriage. Rather than choosing direct confrontation, the husband tries to use psychology to turn the situation in his favor, leading to some comic situations that only partially come off.
The three leads are all pretty good, especially Meredith, who has the liveliest role. And Ernst Lubitsch directs with his usual dapper style. But there isn't really much of a story, and the behavior of the characters, while generally humorous, is too often completely implausible. So the movie is really never more than mildly entertaining.
This will probably only be of particular interest to those who are fans of the director or one of the stars.
An enjoyable comedy, set among rich white people in New York in 1940,
with wonderful clothes for the women.
As a traditional comedy, it uses stock types. We have the businessman who has become boring (Melvyn Douglas), his wife (the exquisite Merle Oberon) who wants an affair, the young musician (Burgess Meredith) who sweeps her off her feet, and the young secretary (Eve Arden) who secretly adores the businessman.
To be comic, characters exhibit extreme selfishness, pursuing their own desires by manipulating or ignoring other people. We get this in spades from the three principals, forever playing tricks on each other to get what they want next. One of endless examples: the lover scratches the husband's gramophone record after dinner so that he can play the piano instead, only to find that the husband has locked the lid of the piano.
Physical knockabout is another strong element. Two of the best moments are when the wife, stuck for an answer, repeatedly throws a faint and when the husband, told by his lawyer to assault her in front of witnesses, repeatedly fails to slap her face.
What were contemporary jokes are still fun. Psychoanalysis and modern art are targets for satire, also (an in-joke) that New York was being taken over by Hungarians.
Not the overall funniest, most stylish or slickest film around, but a pleasant diversion. Worth watching to see Merle Oberon at her peak.
Merle Oberon and Melvyn Douglas deal with "That Uncertain Feeling," a
1941 Ernst Lubitsch film based on a Sardou play. It's actually a remake
of a silent Lubitsch, "Kiss Me Again." The film also stars Burgess
Meredith and Eve Arden.
Jill Baker (Oberon) is married to a successful businessman, Larry Baker (Douglas), but after six years, the bloom is off the rose. She goes to a psychiatrist, where, in the waiting room, she meets an opinionated pianist, Alexander Sebastian (Meredith), who introduces her to the world of art and music. She becomes fascinated with the world of culture and with him. Before you know it, Oberon and Douglas are divorcing, and Oberon and Meredith become engaged.
The best scene occurs in the divorce attorney's office, when the secretary, Sally (Eve Arden) is asked to take a letter. In reality, she's supposed to witness Larry slapping Jill to help them get their divorce.
There are some nice things in this film, including the bright performances of the leads, particularly the beautiful Oberon, whose presence shone in many a film.
All in all, a disappointing Lubitsch, but Oberon's charm is quite special and always worth seeing.
A mild romantic comedy that's atypical of Lubitsch. Merle Oberon looks
gorgeous. Her clothes are sensational. Melvyn Douglas is not credible
as her crass insurance-executive husband. This is the man who taught
Garbo to laugh in the same director's "Ninotcha" and was generally
suave and somewhat iconoclastic. As the movie proceeds, he settles into
a trick-playing husband not quite consistent with the man who've first
Burgess Meredith is sort of wasted as the annoying pianist Oberon meets in a psychiatrist's waiting room. (Alan Mowbry is hilariously dry as the analyst. And in some ways, this is a comment on psychoanalysis.) The Meredith character is the most interest. It is a very convincing study in absolute narcissism. He may be accomplished, indeed; but whether he is or not, he is his own greatest fan and protector.
There are swipes at modern art as well as those at analysis. In some ways, it's a little retrograde.
But it's beautifully shot and the design is fabulous. This is the New York City we'd all love to live in. And Oberon looks ravishing. Her performance is convincingly comic, too, though she is so match for Eve Arden in an all too small role.
It has some clever dialogue, but the plot you can see coming at you
from a mile away, as it is a take on "the grass is greener". Plus there
is only one really likable main character - Melvyn Douglas as Larry
After six years of marriage socialite Jill Baker is feeling quite bored. She is convinced by her equally bored Park Avenue socialite friends that she must simply go see Dr. Venguard, a psychoanalyst. Between Dr. Venguard, Jill's friends, and a complete narcissist she meets in Venguard's waiting room - Burgess Meredith as Sebastian, a pianist, she becomes convinced her marriage is on the rocks. This is all news to Larry who, although he does seem to eat and sleep the insurance business, is trying to build a better life for himself and his wife.
Before Larry knows what has happened, he is out and Jill wants to divorce him and marry the extremely tiresome Sebastian, whom she is convinced is a genius. He tells her so every day! Eve Arden as a legal secretary steals the show when she is asked about what is going on and her opinion. She says she sees it every day. Women taken care of in high style with no worries and nothing to think about but how unhappy they think that they are.
I wish I could make this review more inspiring, but the film itself is pleasant but uninspiring. No new ground is covered here, and the parts of it are greater than the whole. I can give kudos to Melvyn Douglas as the husband who thinks he is more clever at getting his wife back than he is, and to Burgess Meredith as somebody who thinks a great deal of himself as a musical genius but seems to have no visible means of support. Merle Oberon is lovely here and seems to have "that uncertain feeling" every step of the way. Events more than her own will seem to be propelling her forward in every instance.
A few great memorable lines, what could be heavy melodrama turned into a very light romantic comedy Lubitsch style, and probably worth your time if you run across it, but nothing to deliberately seek out.
Luke warm comedy of manners. The storyline's done with style, but
needed verve gives way to too much talk. The results are more
sophistication than set-ups, more occasional chuckles than laughs.
Larry (Douglas) is a married insurance executive. Trouble is he's neglecting wife Jill (Oberon) who's having hiccup bouts, probably because his main communication is poking her playfully in the stomach. So she takes up with squirrelly Sebastian (Meredith) who's an egotistical man of the arts. Now Larry's unhappy with the results, but what's he to do.
Oberon and Douglas both low-key their parts. Add that to a talky script and we get some good lines and situations, but mild results overall. Looks like Meredith's sour artiste was intended to supply needed verve. However, his character is too obnoxious to generate much comedy. Too bad, as other reviewers point out, that Eve Arden's comedic potential goes untapped. Some caustic exchanges between her and Meredith would have livened things up. However, two comedic set-ups do stand out: the office scene where divorce plans keep misfiring, plus the climax where Larry pretends to have a girl in his bedroom to make Jill jealous. In fact, that last scene has the vivacious earmarks of a better total comedy than what we have otherwise.
Anyway, it's New York sophistication done Lubitsch style, even if second rank.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I read that this film was a failure at the box office, and I'm not
quite sure why. Perhaps it seemed like a throw-back to those mid-1930s
films where Hollywood seemed to think that the American public was
obsessed with the upper class. When I first began watching, I almost
turned it off because that's what I thought was coming. But I stuck
with it, and I found that this is a rather pleasant comedy about a
somewhat boring man who is boring his wife in their everyday life, to
the point where she has an affair and the husband and wife decide to
Melvyn Douglas doesn't have much to do for the first third of the film...but after all, he is supposed to be boring. No, that part of the film belongs to the lovely Merle Oberon. But, Douglas' part strengthens for the remainder of the film, and he does nicely, as does Oberon as a rather spoiled wife. Who is the third side of the triangle? Burgess Meredith as a rather insufferable pianist. It's interesting to watch Meredith here. He seems strong in the scenes where he is speaking, but a little awkward in the scenes where he is silent. And, I always enjoy watching character actor Harry Davenport, who never disappoints. Eve Arden is here, also, as a secretary, but her part is crucial, though rather small.
This probably isn't going to end up on your DVD shelf, but if you like romantic comedies from the 30s...yes, I know this came out in 1941, but it seems older...then you'll probably like this enough to watch...once.
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