Let's Do It Again (1953)
In this 1953 musical remake of "The Awful Truth" Wyman is married to womanizing composer Milland and sets out to give him some of his own medicine. She has an affair, but her ploy backfires, and the couple get a divorce. Once separated, they try every way to make each other jealous.
- In this 1953 remake of the the 1937 film "The Awful Truth," Jane Wyman and Ray Milland play Constance and Gary Hart, a New York show-biz couple. She's a singer and dancer and he's a songwriter. But he's also a philanderer and she turns the tables on him by pretending to spend the night with their friend Courtney (Tom Helmore), an older (and sexually ambiguous) male friend. Constance is furious at Gary. She wants a husband who's "there" for her. But no sooner does she throw Gary out, than he becomes constantly underfoot, hanging around their apartment songwriting on his old piano that's too big to remove without taking out the window. Maybe she doesn't want a man who's really "there" after all? After all, she does sing a song called "Taking a Slow Burn Over A Fast Man" about being in love with a heel.
Constance files for divorce and they both fall into dissatisfying single lifestyles. Constance finds herself living a spinsterish life with her maid Nelly, who lovingly tucks a hot water bottle in a needlepoint pillow and pops it in her bed each night before she goes home. Gary's also leading a superficial bachelor life at the Sherry-Netherland with his valet. Both enter into imperfect relationships: Gary is dating an elegant socialite, Deborah Randolph (Karin Booth). Constance still spends time with the dapper Courtney, but we know he's not really interested in her sexually. A younger man, Frank (Aldo Ray), a uranium millionaire from Alaska, and a longtime admirer of Constance's, arranges to meet her at a backer's audition for Courtney's new show, and immediately goes after her. But is he really the dull guy Constance thinks she's looking for? He likes a night on the town and does a mean "Cuban Mambo" on the dance floor. Also in the picture is Lilly Adair (played by famed dancer Valerie Bettis), a rather outrageously sexual singer-dancer at an upper-crust nightclub, where Gary runs into Constance and Frank, "by chance." There, Lilly performs a song "I Long for Love the Jungle Way," suggesting that it's a lack of physicality that's at the bottom of Gary and Constance's marital problems. Although wooing Constance, Frank's fascination with Lilly is evident.
Gary, having discovered that Constance had only pretended to spend the night with Courtney to get back at him, wakes her up with a song he wrote called "Let's Do It Again." He wants her back. But in the meantime, Courtney proposes to Constance in her bedroom (even though he swore he would never get married), so that she'll stay in her "own world." Gary, ready to reconcile, comes back to the apartment. Constance tries to hide Courtney, but he's discovered when Gary accidentally puts on Courtney's larger hat by accident. Could this mean that despite his asexuality towards women, Courtney is more of a man than Gary? They get into a fist fight in Constance's bedroom and Frank comes to visit, ready to take Constance home to meet his parents in Seattle. Their relationship ends, but Constance was never really committed to Frank anyhow. Gary, who for a city slicker is amazingly naive about Courtney's sexual disinterest in Constance, goes back to Deborah with a vengeance.
Constance puts on a sexy, wedding style outfit on the day their divorce decree becomes final. Gary wants her signature for permission to take the window out of the apartment so he can move his piano. She wants to get back together with him. She opens a huge bottle of champagne in the kitchen, closes the blinds and turns out the lights. But Deborah calls just as Constance pops the cork and Gary pretends he's with his sister. Gary gives Constance a rude brush-off. But Constance fights back; pretending to be Gary's sister, she calls Deborah and has her arrange a party at Gary's hotel suite. Not only that, Deborah's parents are in town to meet Gary. The only parents mentioned in this film are Frank and Deborah's; it suggests that that even though they're in touch with their sexuality in a way that Gary and Constance aren't, neither of them are truly adults.
Constance brazenly enters the party pretending to be Gary's sister. Like Irene Dunne in "The Awful Truth," she's wonderfully trashy. She does a mean imitation of Lilly, and we hear "I Long For Love The Jungle Way" a second time, this time sung by Constance. Deborah's parents and the rest of the guests leave in disgust. Deborah throws in the towel, saying to Gary that Constance must really still love him. Frank and Lilly end up getting together--after all, they're emotional equals. Gary wants Constance to stay at the hotel with him, but she runs back to her apartment in tears. Nelly's waiting with the hot water bottle. And Constance is not so distraught that she can't put on one last beautiful outfit, a white negligee that evokes a wedding night. Nelly leaves and Gary bangs on the bedroom door. Constance's weeping and clutching the hot water bottle that symbolizes her solitary female life. She has a chance at the husband she thought she always wanted, one who will be always there. She lets Gary in and they passionately embrace. The film ends with needlepointed hot water bottle discarded on the floor. It's tossed aside for now, but it's still in the couple's bedroom. This suggests that their marital problems are not quite over. Constance is going to have to give up more than Frank to make this marriage work.
"Let's Do It Again," maybe because it's a remake, is thematically more of a thirties or early forties film than a fifties one. Constance wants a steady husband, but she's not interested in being a housewife. She has no interest in giving up her career or having children. Ray Milland is serviceable in this film as Gary, but he's no Cary Grant. This makes Constance's choices more problematic than Lucy's in The Awful Truth. But he probably helps foot the bill for her drop-dead wardrobe. Constance appears in one beautiful outfit after another throughout the film; that New York apartment must have a lot of closet space. Jane Wyman is Irene Dunne's equal in this remake. As the years go on, Wyman has become overly identified with the dull, virtuous women she played in Douglas Sirk's films. It's nice to see her let loose here and it reminds us that she was also a great comic actress.