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Robert Z. Leonard
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Bob is a struggling artist who paints for his own amusement. Julie is a rich society girl. When they meet, it is cute and they are soon married. Living in a small apartment with the constant company of close friend Oscar, they are poor, but happy. When the papers run the story about his riot in the park, Bob is suddenly news. With his private showing he becomes the society's newest sensation. Bob becomes serious, devoid of fun and adventure. Money becomes his prime concern and all the introductions are handled by Lilly. But this is not the life that either Julie or Oscar want.Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I can imagine Robert Montgomery's quandary circa 1935. "Here's a script where I am a handsome boat builder who refuses to live off his rich theatrical agent wife's money! Here's another where I am handsome artist who refuses to live off his rich socialite's money! How about this one, where I am a handsome advertising executive who refuses to live off his madcap heiress wife's money! Which one should I choose? God, they're all so exciting!" And so it was with "Live, Love, and Learn." Rosalind Russell is a socialite who gives it all up for bohemian artist Montgomery, because he has nonvulgar ideals and his idea of success is more than just making money, and it doesn't hurt that he's a full-on hottie. They meet cute (she flies off her horse and directly through his canvas) and in the next scene are standing before a justice of the peace while Bob tries to talk Roz out of it. Clearly, some time has gone by, but wouldn't it be funny if this were just hours later? Maybe in 1930 but not 1937.
I saw some in-jokes here that I must comment upon. Bob brings Roz home to his starving-artist garret. His drunken friend comes by to pay his matrimonial respects and passes out. They bundle him onto a couch, push him out into the hall, and cover his face with a painting rag. Bob says, "Now he looks like a decapitated corpse," which, in fact, was much the plot of "Night Must Fall," which Bob and Roz played the next year (I wonder which was filmed first?). Later, the couple sneak behind a group of journalists trying to get an interview with the now-infamous artist. They are listening to his blustering friend (Robert Benchley, mostly wasted here). When the journalists notice, Benchley says "He wants to be alone," which even in 1938 was associated with Garbo. Helen Vinson is good fun as the "friend" who promotes the artist's work but also wants him in the Biblical sense.
I did love the scene where the trio, tired of reporters trying to get an interview with the artist (who caused a riot in Central Park), mistake Monty Wooley (great here as he always would be), a genuine art critic, for one of them and proceed to play comic assault upon him. Later, when Bob gets true success, Roz still wants him to play the foolish zany and start cutting suspenders at a showing of his work, where all the people seems fake to her. He resents her implication that his work is not legitimate enough to be truly good. He feels his success will enable him to finally support her in the style she deserves. She thinks he's sold out for a quick buck and is quite happy to live in the garret and put up with his continually dropping-in friend. (By the way, I can also imagine Roz's complaints to the makers of the picture: "Women don't clean in heels and a dress. Please! Can't I wear something more appropriate?" "Roz, baby, people don't pay good money to see Rosalind Russell clean her hubby's hovel in rags! They want to see her in a dress, even when it doesn't make sense! After all, this is MGM!") Somewhat disturbing to our 21st century minds in the scene where Bob arranges with a flower seller on the street to take her son home to paint him. Of course, she's Italian (must have those stereotypes) and she says, "What color?" He takes the kid home and attempts to capture his free spirit by dressing him up in a fig leaf configuration and posing him with a lamb. The pedophilic overtones of this are truly shudder-inducing. I suppose in 1937 this was not given another thought
Anyway, the central theme of this picture is, I suppose, that one can live and love easily but it is somewhat harder to adjust to the expectations of those we do love. This isn't a bad film but a mediocre one, and the actors are simply hampered by the inane story. Roz would later go on to great success in sharply written screwball comedies and I suppose this was a baby step in that direction. Bob, though, was continually hampered by the noble, handsome lover roles he did so well in the early 30s and was still playing in the late 30s. He must have fought hard to play the psychotic killer in "Night Must Fall," but it didn't seem to lead to other worthy roles. It is truly lamentable that he didn't latch on to, say, a role like Nick Charles in the Thin Man series. He would have done smashingly in something like that. Getting back to this film, he and Roz have great chemistry together and make it a pretty enjoyable 90 minutes.
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