Max Wharton, 39, is the editor of the New York Bulletin -- or he was, until he announces that he's quitting to join the army. Robert Gow, who owns the paper, is furious. But Wharton wants more than anything to be close to the war. And his wife, Polly, wants to be close to him. And so she finishes up her latest movie script, and follows her husband to live near the barracks. She lives in a bungalow with no shower, lights that you have to turn on and off from the outside, a refrigerator that makes a hideous noise when she's lucky (that means it's working), moths and other niceties. Meanwhile, Max, studying hard for his exams, is starting to believe the saw that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Written by
Polly has arrived at the officers training camp bungalow living quarters. She pushes several of her suitcases forward along the sidewalk with her foot. She passes a toddler on a tricycle and says to him, "I wish you were a little older." The toddler mouths a reply or says something, but no sound is heard. See more »
Over 21 the film version of the Ruth Gordon play which detailed her experiences trying to keep the marriage together with Garson Kanin after he'd gone in the service provides Irene Dunne with one of her better later roles on the big screen. It's also in keeping with what was then an upbeat spirit in America about how we would not screw up the peace as we did in the first World War and sow the seeds of yet another global conflict.
The play Ruth Gordon wrote and starred in herself ran for 221 performances in 1944 on Broadway and was confined simply to the bungalow that Gordon and Harvey Stephens who was the male lead had on a training base. If you look on the Broadway credits list it says that the production was 'staged' by George S. Kaufman as opposed to being directed by him. I'm not sure of the distinction, but I can imagine that with a wit and will as strong as Kaufman's it must have been an interesting period putting the production together before opening night.
When Columbia bought the screen rights, Sidney Buchman had to do some considerable script reconstruction to move the action beyond the bungalow. The film bears very little trace of its stage origins.
Alexander Knox plays the husband and Charles Coburn the employer of both Dunne and Knox who are writers. Knox has graduated to not only editor, but featured columnist. His words and thoughts help sell the paper and Coburn is in a bind. But Knox feels he has to get into the war, the seminal event of his time in order to speak authoritatively on the kind of post war world he wants. This was not an uncommon theme in those years.
Irene Dunne has some good comic moments, the kind she used to have when she was appearing opposite Cary Grant. In fact Garson Kanin directed both of them in My Favorite Wife a few years earlier. Coburn is his usual cantankerous old water buffalo of a boss who ultimately has a good heart.
Over 21 was an optimistic picture which sad to say wasn't accurate about what the Allies and I mean all of them could bring to the peace conferences to create a better world. Still hopefully a new generation will get it right.
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