“Don’t ask for your rights; demand them!”
A newlywed lawyer (Jimmy Stewart) tries to gather enough courage to demand a raise from his bullish boss (Charles Coburn), while his new wife (Carole Lombard) struggles to please her picky mother-in-law (Lucile Watson).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Carole Lombard Films
- Charles Coburn Films
- Jimmy Stewart Films
- John Cromwell Films
- Marital Problems
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this film about “the trials and tribulations” of a young married couple “starts out like a standard comedy, but becomes better as their problems increase and [the] characters take a more serious approach to improving their financial woes”. He accurately notes that “Lombard and Stewart are appealing even when their characters let us down or the script becomes overly melodramatic or mawkish” — which, unfortunately, is exactly what occurs during the film’s final half-hour, when the storyline suddenly turns into (as DVD Savant puts it) “a ridiculous mess”. Indeed, the film’s lengthy, admittedly nail-biting denouement nearly ruins the heartfelt veracity of what’s come before: just as we’re beginning to truly empathize with these characters and their challenging situation, we’re thrown into a plot twist straight out of Melodramatic Screenwriting 101.
It could be argued — as DVD Savant does in his review — that the Masons’ entire situation is overplayed as much more dire than it really is. After all, the couple’s worst troubles consist of a dinner party gone awry (no more wine left!), Stewart unable to get a raise and promotion (though he DOES have a stable job during harsh economic times), having to house their newborn baby’s crib in the dining room (horrors! I’m guilty of that one as charged), and — the worst case scenario — actually being unable to afford their housemaid anymore (!). With that said, it’s still easy enough to sympathize with a couple who (in Savant’s words) “are about as endearing as a movie pairing can get”, and are ultimately “trying to cope with familiar financial problems” — and Lombard’s interactions with her meddlesome mother-in-law (nicely played by Watson) ring true. It’s just too bad the script fails the characters completely by the end — though I’ll guiltily admit that my heart was in my mouth throughout. Watch for unexpectedly Expressionistic sets by William Cameron Menzies, lit atmospherically by D.P. Leon Shamroy.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Carole Lombard as Jane Mason
- Jimmy Stewart as John Mason
- The Masons’ nicely realistic interactions with their newborn son (reminiscent of similar scenes in Penny Serenade)
- Louise Beavers in a tiny but memorable role as Jane’s maid, Lily
- William Cameron Menzies’ Expressionistic sets (during the final half hour)
No, but it’s worth a look simply for Lombard and Stewart’s fine central performances.