Made for Each Other (1939)

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  • directed by John Cromwell
  • starring James Stewart, Carole Lombard, Charles Coburn, Lucile Watson
  • John and Jane may be meant for each other, but they’ll have to work together to weather life’s many ups and downs.

“Happy New Year, darling.”

This was one of two relationship-centric John Cromwell films in 1939, a pair that also includes In Name Only with Cary Grant, which I can’t find a decent copy of anywhere. They were both among the final five or so films of Carole Lombard before a plane crash took her life in 1942. The two films also enjoyed rebroadcasts on Lux Radio Theater, with Lombard and Stewart reprising their roles in the years following the release of the film. This is something that I think speaks volumes about the type of film Made for Each Other is—a simple, universally-familiar story told mainly through the dialogue of two iconic and thoroughly expressive leads. I liked the fact that it was so simple in substance. John and Jane get married fast, jump over the hurdle of introducing her to his mother, and then start a life, all while struggling to gain stable financial footing as his expected law firm promotion falls through. It doesn’t sound like movie material but with Stewart and Lombard out in front it all ends up rather fascinating. It’s also worth mentioning (maybe, maybe not) that with the addition of just a few running gags, the entire production could have easily taken a turn into screwball comedy terrain. It had a lot of the trappings of that particular genre, including two of its most capable talents, and tons of space for any sort of uplifting levity.

No comedy present at all, really, instead it was a quiet portrait of a young family unit, dealing with everyday social, professional, and relationship issues, before taking an unfortunate Hollywood turn in the final act. Their baby getting sick was not the issue for me, that was par for the course; just another obstacle in a long line that was piled on the Masons throughout. When the clock starts ticking and it’s only a plane in treacherous weather that can deliver the serum to save him, though…yea, that’s Hollywood. The sequence was ripped directly from a similar situation that producer David O. Selznick went through with his brother, but still, for such an unassuming character piece, a blockbuster adventure-type finish comes across as a mismatch, to say the least. I also have a slight issue with the title because it ignores what were the main themes of the film, specifically how much work it takes to maintain even the best of marriages and the larger world’s tendency to impede on complete happiness. On the other hand, though, I suppose you could be “made for each other’ yet still be brought down by crippling insecurities and outside elements. I see John and Jane as landing on both sides of this coin, he who down the road would appear to be not good enough for her due to constantly not feeling good enough about himself, and her the unwavering presence who cares greatly for their troubles, but never enough to let it weaken the love they share.

As for the film’s visual sense, Cromwell’s staging and lighting work tended to increase in emotion and detail dramatically every time the film shifted back to the Mason house. It stood out especially because of how standard the rest of the film was. Cromwell amped up the shadows and toyed with unconventional camera angles, which gave off an off-kilter feeling as if to illustrate the relentless stream of responsibilities that were eating at John’s insides.

I was very excited to see a New Year’s Eve scene in this, given that I watched it on New Year’s Eve, a day that always makes with the heavy reflection on where I’ve been and where I’m going.

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About classixquest
all the things I should have seen

One Response to Made for Each Other (1939)

  1. Pingback: Beyond the Rocks (1922) | classixquest

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