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"The Impatient Years" deserves to be rediscovered. The script and the
playing by Jean Arthur and Lee Bowman (as Janie and Andy) showed great
daring by going against the grain of WW2 romances in showing the reality
behind the media-driven fantasy that marrying soldiers during wartime was a
patriotic duty and the epitome of romantic love. Arthur and Bowman
(and sometimes, painfully) show tentative getting to know someone after a
whirlwind courtship followed by service overseas. Jean Arthur's character
openly questions the idea of war marriages and advocates her personal
fulfillment over being married because society expected a 1940's woman to
married. This was daring for the 1940's as was the character of the
boarder, who didn't go off to war; didn't feel stigmatized for not fighting
in battle; and who cared for Andy and Janie's baby as if it were his own
The chemistry between Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn (atlast, playing daughter and father) is as strong and as fun to watch as in their other films together.
The pace, music, and editing was lyrical and leisurely. This adds immeasurably to the gentle comedy and strong dramatic moments when Andy and Janie replay their courtship (under court order).
Lee Bowman should have become a star from his work in "The Impatient Years". He showed great chemistry with Jean Arthur and could've developed into a Melvyn Douglas-type leading man.
A film that deserves a second, even third viewing to appreciate and savor!
Based on Jean Arthur's definitive biography, The Actress Nobody Knew,
critics, and apparently Oller, did not think much of this film or of
Arthur's co-star, Lee Bowman. At the beginning of my foray into classic
cinema I would have taken this opinion, and the opinion of other
legitimate critics at face value. However, having since discovered
many, many underrated gems (and underrated actors) that critics in the
past and the present overlook, I decided to watch The Impatient Years
and form my own opinion.
Jean Arthur is one of my favorite actresses and in "The Impatient Years" (which could also be the title of her fractious tenure at Columbia), she gives one of the best performances of her film career. In contrast to her independent, softly cynical characters of the 1930s, she played slightly befuddled "spinster" roles in the 1940s, but the role of Janie Smith Anderson managed to meld both attributes into an appealing and touching performance. Lee Bowman was equally wonderful in his role as Sgt Andrew Anderson, bringing an assured, low-key type of charm to the screen. I must also praise the supporting cast made up of the fantastic Charles Coburn, and lovely character actors Harry Davenport, Charley Grapewin, Phil Brown, and Grant Mitchell.
Clocking in at a well-rounded 90 minutes, "The Impatient Years" is one of those unsung gems full of humor, pathos, and romance, which also takes a good, hard look at the issue of a runaway marriage and the strain of war. I can only imagine how audiences reacted to this film during war-time, and hope that it brought as much joy and entertainment to them as it did for me.
I disagree the movie is just ordinary. While somewhat predictable in its outcome, the uncomfortable interaction between and Mr. and Mrs. Anderson was delightful. Her father provided the kind of advise Dr. Phil could learn from. Whenever I watch the old movies for the first time, the notion of a simpler time in America and the world is refreshing. I don't want to see the same garbage we call movies today. Hollywood's golden era need not be ashamed of "The Impatient Years". It takes us back in time to when saying "I do" was supposed to mean something. Thank you Jean Arthur and Lee Bowman for an uplifting movie experience.
Legendary star Jean Arthur ended her Columbia contract with THE
IMPATIENT YEARS in 1944 and walked away from her screen career to
return to the movies only twice within the next eight years. This
mildly entertaining light drama was not a particularly memorable ending
to the golden era of her career but it is an acceptable one. Jean
married solider Lee Bowman in a whirlwind courtship before he left for
duty, now that he's back they find they have nothing in common except
for the baby she gave birth to while he was away. A bad first day back
home has the duo headed to divorce court where judge Edgar Buchanan
agrees with Jean's dad (Charles Coburn) suggestion that they be forced
to relive their whirlwind courtship again for a few days to see if they
really don't have anything in common before a divorce will be granted.
This is essentially a drama with a few comic touches. Jean Arthur is always good and looks remarkably youthful at 43 (although publicized at the time as 38) completely believable as a young girl who has become completely domesticated without a husband (or really wanting one). Lee Bowman was one of several rather colorless actors promoted to leading man during the war years while many major stars were away serving in the military. He's OK here but not much more than that and is saddled with a character that has a rather unpleasant edge. Certainly the "second courtship" of Arthur and Bowman doesn't ring true in it's resolution.
Phil Brown plays Jean's bookish boarder who is half in love with her and has been playing surrogate, platonic husband while Bowman has been away. Brown doesn't make a particularly strong impression on screen but he went on to have a very long if minor career reaching his apex with a small role in 1977 in STAR WARS. He passed away just last year, 2006.
Charles Coburn is wasted here but a few other character actors shine in their small roles, notably Charley Grapewin as an elderly bellhop and Harry Davenport and Jane Darwell as the justice of the peace and his wife.
THE IMPATIENT YEARS proves at least that Jean Arthur could handle drama as well as her more acclaimed talent for comedy. The star was one of a kind but the film alas is run of the mill.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When a couple who married impulsively are separated after three days
and reunited after he returns from active military duty, they discover
they don't even know each other and decide to divorce even though she
has had a child. The wife's father doesn't approve of the divorce, and
the judge decides to test their marriage even further by sending the
couple back to where they first met to re-live their romance. Both are
stubborn, but with the interference of some eccentric characters, this
couple just might find out the hard way that they do love each other.
Jean Arthur and Lee Bowman are the young couple thrown together by circumstance in a situation they don't want to be in with the other. Charles Coburn is the delightful papa who interferes with the couple, and "Uncle Henry" Charley Grapewin is the over-the-hill bellboy in the San Francisco hotel who takes it upon himself to keep them together no matter what. Edgar Buchannan (as the judge), Harry Davenport (justice of the peace) and Jane Darwell (his wife) offer support and much advice, particularly that of how war-time weddings weren't always thought through, a reflection of the loneliness of the era even though it was a very romantic time, in movies, music and for the homesick sailors on leave longing for the war to end so they could return home.
This movie offers a gently written scenario, sweetly spoken in a soft manner that helps with a plot line that at some points seems to be going all over the place. This was Jean Arthur's last contract film at Columbia, and she gives a very dignified non-frenetic performance. As for Bowman, he seems to be a missed opportunity, a romantic hero that never rose above mostly second leads, this film being perhaps his only chance to become a star. This seems to have fallen through the cracks of classic films to be remembered, perhaps because it is so low-key, a valentine to a softer side of the war.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My quarrel with this film is that the last hour of it doesn't quite
live up to the promise of the first half hour. In the first half hour
the film establishes the issue of a wartime soldier's struggles to
adjust back into home life. Andy Anderson (Lee Bowman) comes home to a
wife (Jean Arthur) he barely knows and a baby who is more familiar with
the tenant which the house was sub-let to (Phil Brown) than himself.
The expertly shown awkward atmosphere of a returning soldier pre-dates
by two years the better known The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).
However, the film's premise starts to become somewhat ridiculous and trivialised in the event of the couple wanting a divorce - and only being able to get one if they re-live their courtship. Misunderstandings among hotel clerks, bellboys and marriage bureaucrats ensues. These moments become strained and tiresome after awhile.
In spite of all this, one moment in the film lingers and gives the film a return to its original profound tone. There is a point where the couple visits the minister who married them originally (it's part of the procedure, ironically, in gaining their divorce). Their impending divorce is unbeknownst to the minister and his wife. Instead they think that the couple are there to show gratitude for ever being married. The minister expresses how uncertain the future is for wedded couples, but his wife rushes to say that she knew the Andersons' would stay married. This, of course, makes the Andersons' feel increasingly awkward. It is a pivotal moment for them, making them re-connect to that moment of wedded bliss and a desire more than ever to recapture it.
In short, while the comedic parts in the film are sub par, the first thirty minutes and the later scene at the minister's house keep the film memorable. All in all, the film's anticipation of post-war adjustments back home and its examination of marriage makes it well worth seeing. To see Jean Arthur in one of her latter roles and still looking glorious is the bonus.
While I am a huge fan of Jean Arthur's films, this final film from her
Columbia Pictures contract is a rather mediocre film--at least compared
to her more famous films (which are many). Now this isn't to day it's
bad--certainly not. No, it's more just a film with excellent acting but
a premise and writing that just don't deliver.
Jean and Lee Bowman star as a couple that knew each other only a few days before they married. He then shipped out overseas after only knowing her four days. When he returns, it's now very awkward since they hardly knew each other and it seems that what they do discover about each other they don't like! This is an excellent idea and could be the basis of a good film (sort of like a follow-up to THE CLOCK--an excellent Judy Garland film where she meets and marries a nice guy she hardly knows). However, what happens next is pretty silly and impossible to believe. They decide to divorce and the judge (Edgar Buchanan) decides to follow Jean's father's advice (Charles Coburn) and sentence them to spend four days together re-living the four days they'd previously had--in an effort to get them to realize WHY they married in the first place! This plot device is just silly and impossible to believe. However, if you look past this, the film is amiable enough and entertaining. Not a great flick, but certainly a must for Jean Arthur fans. Also, it is interesting to see Coburn playing a not-so-gruff "nice guy" role for a change. I actually watched the film mostly for him, though I also adore Jean's films.
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