Sunday, February 17, 2013
MOVIE REVIEW: PENNY SERENADE
Penny Serenade starred Grant and the underrated Irene Dunne and was released by Columbia Pictures in 1941. Grant received an Oscar nomination for the role, but he lost it to Gary Cooper’s portrayal of Sergeant Alvin York in Sergeant York.
I don’t want to telll the entire plot of the film, but as the title suggests, music plays an important part in the story. It is used as a means of introducing flashback scenes. We are shown a record being played and as the music swells and the disc spins we are taken back in time and shown the history of Julie and Roger Adams. We see how they met at the record store. Their courtship is sweet – he continues to buy more and more records in order to spend time with her. Soon he wins her over, and they are married. They long to start a family, but throughout the movie the worst possibly tragedy that can happen to parents do. The tragedy pulls them apart to a place where they are living almost separate lives but in the end there is a glimmer of hope when a surprise gift almost literally lands in the couple’s arms.
Penny Serenade was dramatized as a half-hour radio play on the November 16, 1941 broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in their original roles. It was also presented as an hour-long drama on Lux Radio Theater, first on April 27, 1942 with Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck, then on May 8, 1944 with Joseph Cotten and Irene Dunne. Dunne again starred in July 1953 on CBS Radio's General Electric Theater. A television adaptation for Lux Video Theatre, starring Phyllis Thaxter, was broadcast in January 1955 on NBC. Despite these many adaptations though, there is no version better than this film version with Grant and Dunne.
The film was released by Columbia Pictures, with George Stevens' production firm owning the copyright. In 1968, the film went into the public domain. As a result there are about a dozen companies who have issued the movie on DVD. Many of their copies are inferior and of poor quality.
Although her name is not heard much today, Irene Dunne was a hug star during Hollywood’s golen age. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s she starred in a string of box office hits. Her first big movie was Cimarron in 1931, and it was the first western to win the Oscar for Best Picture. She also appeared in the 1936 version of Showboat, and opposite Charles Boyer in the original Love Affair in 1939 for which she was Oscar nominated. Like Grant, Irene Dunne was nominated several times but never won. Penny Serenade was her third teaming with Cary Grant after The Awful Truth (1937) and My Favorite Wife (1940). Unlike those two hilarious comedies, Penny Serenade is a heartbreaking tearjerker.
One particular scene will rip at your heart is when Grant must face a judge and explain how he expects to keep his adopted child when he has no income from his business. It is a gut wrenching scene as we see a man, whose self indulgence has placed his family in jeopardy, beg to keep his little girl. It is a strong turning point in his life of this proud man who has finally realized what is really important to him. Alas, more tragedy is in the cards for him and his struggling family. The film is a dark drama of struggle, enlightenment, and self discovery. It will grab at the strongest of hearts and will make viewers ask themselves what is really important in their lives.
Even though watching Penny Serenade always brought a tear to my eye, I could get through most of the movie. Now that I have a family and children, the tragedy that the movie characters face tear me apart to the point that I can barely watch the movie anymore. Just writing this review of the film, I have teared up a few times. The movie is full of sadness, heartache, and grief, but even in the movie’s darkest moments there is also a little bit of hope. Despite making this movie sound completely depressing, do yourself a favor and watch the movie if you have not seen it. Cuddle up on the couch with your loved one and box of tissues and enjoy a sad but well made movie…
MY RATING: 10 OUT OF 10