Saturday, March 12, 2016

OVP: Eternally Yours (1939)

Film: Eternally Yours (1939)
Stars: Loretta Young, David Niven, Hugh Herbert, Billie Burke, C. Aubrey Smith, ZaSu Pitts, Broderick Crawford
Director: Tay Garnett
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Original Score)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars

Loretta Young is not a name that inspires a lot of confidence in me as a filmgoer.  When I told my brother I watched a Loretta Young movie the other night, in fact, his first comment was "an evening with the Republicans!" which is pretty accurate.  Young's films usually border on the overtly sincere and far too simplistic, and while her politics are hardly a reason to indicate that's the why behind this formula (there were far too many Republicans in Hollywood during the Golden Age to assume that all of them made puritanical films) it does always feel like the case, particularly in a film like Eternally Yours, which goes to incredible pains to underline Young's virtue even when her marriage to a successful magician goes on the rocks.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film follows Anita (Young) who is engaged to be married to Don (Crawford), but during her bridal shower she falls for a talented magician named the Great Arturo (Niven).  She eventually takes over as his assistant and they get married, but after a drunken night Arturo boasts to a reporter that he can jump, bound by chains, from a plane and get out of the trap to activate the parachute before he hits the ground.  The feat is easily the coolest scene in the movie (and is repeated multiple times as they clearly had a winner), and his Houdini routine is obviously a rousing success, but despite Anita's protestations he continues to do it again and again, gaining huge fame and wealth in the process.  When he has no time for her in face of his work, she runs away to Connecticut to a house she secretly had built and gets a divorce, or so she thinks.

The film then takes a rather ludicrous turn where poor, hapless Broderick Crawford (who, let's face it, can't remotely compare to David Niven) comes back into the picture, proposes marriage to Anita and then they get married on a boat.  The marriage is never consummated, though, through a series of ridiculous twists and turns that involve Arturo distracting Don's boss and we learn after a while that Anita is in fact not divorced, and she and Arturo, after a near-suicide attempt, are brought back together.

The film fails in so many ways, not least of which is that Anita sticks to exactly zero of her principles.  I know that bringing feminism into a film in the 1940's where the female character isn't a murderer is a tough sell, but seriously-Anita gets back together with Arturo despite having some fairly grounded objections against him constantly putting his life in danger.  The film also goes to eye-rolling pains to underline that she doesn't have sex with Don, despite the fact that they are married, which feels like it was something that the prim Young (the actress) threw into the film but it feels weirdly and bizarrely expositional and not really that important considering that Arturo feels a little bit like a cad who probably slept with his new assistant Lola (they don't go to the same levels to protect her virtue).

The movie received a sole Oscar nomination, for Werner Janssen, whose work I've never really taken to in the movies and I'm a bit surprised that he landed six nominations so seemingly-out-of-the-blue.  Though he had a pretty pedigreed career as a conductor (becoming the first American to ever lead the New York Philharmonic) his scores always feel a bit, well, pedantic, and Eternally Yours music is thin, omnipresent, and relies so heavily on a bassoon you half expect a dog to come bouncing out and for Loretta Young to randomly turn into Irene Dunne.  This was during the era when scores were nominated without much bound (there were thirteen nominations that year), and I feel like this was simply United Artists getting its seat at the table.

Those are my thoughts on this film-what about yours?  Do you have a similar sort of reaction to films that star Loretta Young?  Would having a dashing David Niven jump out of a plane cause you to divorce him?  And what precisely am I missing in the appeal of Werner Janssen-is there a film that will change my mind about him?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

No comments: