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"Three Hearts For Julia" is another World War II on the home front romantic comedy. Jeff Seabrook is a war correspondent in the process of getting a divorce from his wife. His wife, a talented violinist, wants a more refined husband. She has two acceptable suitors and wants Jeff (who she considers her best friend) to help her to decide between them. David Torrance - orchestra producer and Philip Barrows - music critic. Meanwhile Julia gets fatherly advice from her conductor Anton Ottoway who has become good friends with Jeff. Written by
Based on a preview of the cast, I eagerly anticipated this movie, which I had not seen before. I really love films from the '30's to the late '40's. But this movie was a big disappointment. However, I do not fault the cast. Melvyn Douglas is among my all-time faves, and I also like Ann Sothern very much. The problem is not with the actors, but with their characters.
The writer doesn't provide sympathetic characters from the outset of the movie. Douglas apparently abandons his wife frequently and for long periods to pursue his writing career. At the beginning of the movie he is returning home, although he doesn't seem sincere about trying to reconstruct his marriage. He seems like he is coming home for another respite (and to placate his wife) before taking off again.
Ann Sothern, the abandoned wife, never really establishes herself as the wronged woman. She has re-launched her career, hooked 2 new suitors and seems set to begin her new life. She doesn't seem to be very emotionally accessible to any of the 3 men in her life OR to us, the audience. Why should we care if this estranged couple gets back together?
Even Felix Bressart, another favorite character actor, is not good here. He seems more goofy than eccentric. His acting is quite a comedic contrast to the remainder of the rather understated performances. It seems a little out of place here.
The humor, as one commentator has noted, is not only predictable, but also based on sexual stereotypes, which I suspect were no more humorous in the day of Rosie the Riveter than they are today. Its only real purpose is to allow Bressart to reflect on how much better his problems are in America than they would be in Europe. The tragic truth in those observations deprives them of much humor.
Despite the unflattering stereotypes, I felt very ambivalent toward the female orchestra members. They are not particularly entertaining or sympathetic. Spending a night at Sothern's house, they all seem to forget they are actually guests in a home that is Douglas' too.
I found myself gradually warming to the characters of Douglas and Sothern. But for a movie to be really engaging, I need to connect with characters early in a film, not gradually begin to warm to them when the movie is half over. That was the real killer for this movie. The predictability and the trite sexism were just additional nails in the coffin. What a disappointment!
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