In Name Only (1939)
“I’ll see Ms. Eden whenever and wherever I can.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
… thanks to the evil machinations of a gold-digging wife-from-hell.
Grant and/or Lombard fans hoping for anything close to a screwball comedy will be disappointed, given that In Name Only takes itself quite seriously, with no laughs to be had — but the entire affair is competently directed, acted, and photographed (by J. Roy Hunt), making it fairly easy to sit through. Watch for a fun supporting performance by Helen Vinson as a philandering socialite who makes a play for Grant.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
One thought on “In Name Only (1939)”
First viewing. Not must-see, but it has its merits and surprises so, overall, it’s not a bad watch.
Ultimately this is merely soap opera but it’s better than I expected and, if you let yourself get through the somewhat-sluggish opening scenes, you’ll find the film taking off in some interesting directions. Two such interesting directions are: Lombard is hesitant to fall for Grant and she is very sensitive to her sister’s view of ‘home-wreckers’.
Some added fuel then makes the film somewhat more intriguing: As played by Francis, Grant’s wife is a classic narcissist and scary. She knows exactly how to wear complete masks that are quite the opposite of her real nature, and has also mastered the arts of manipulating others and orchestrating their movements to her advantage. Hers is a very disturbing character to watch (at least, I think so).
Even though there is no outright ‘humor’ in this film, Grant is, in some scenes, afforded the opportunity to reveal his usual dependable charm – and it becomes easier to see why Lombard eventually falls under his spell. As for Lombard, she’s quite pleasant throughout; watching this – and knowing she had only a few years more to live – you really can’t help but speculate on how her career would likely have continued to blossom.
The screenplay gets better as it goes along and, even if it never completely rises from its cookie-cutter quality as a heart-tugger, ir remains reasonably compelling (most notably in its confrontation sequences, and there’s a considerable number of those).
IMDb informs us that this film was intended by RKO as a follow-up to the pairing of Grant and Katherine Hepburn in ‘Bringing Up Baby’. The follow-up idea was dropped when ‘BUB’ flopped and Hepburn was branded ‘box office poison’. Sometimes a forced change in casting can actually be a relief: Hpeburn would probably have been terrible in Lombard’s role (my guess).
[This title is available as part of the Warner Archive collection…a good collection to keep up with, for news of print-on-demand titles.]