Sog: dal racconto omonimo (1940) di Martha Cheavens. Scen: Morrie Ryskind, Fred Guiol. F: Joseph Walker. M: Otto Meyer. Scgf: Lionel Banks. Mus.: W. Franke Harling. Int: Irene Dunne (Julie Gardiner Adams), Cary Grant (Roger Adams), Beulah Bondi (signorina Oliver), Edgar Buchanan (Applejack Carney), Ann Doran (Dotty ‘Dot’), Eva Lee Kuney (Trina a sei anni), Leonard Willey (dottor Hartley), Wallis Clark (giudice), Walter Soderling (Billings). Prod: George Stevens per Columbia Pictures. 35mm.
Cary Grant cries – the biggest screen sensation since ‘Garbo laughs’. The atypical casting of Grant with Irene Dunne in their third and final pairing owed much to Stevens’s sense of disillusionment, not only with comedy in general but with the meaning of success in Hollywood. In this, one of American cinema’s most poignant melodramas, the agony of loss and coming to terms with it – a motif in Stevens’s cinema and previously explored in Vigil in the Night – brings an unusual maturity to a familiar story. The couple meet, fall in love (no one directs the boy on the front steps of the girl’s house with such witty sensuality as Stevens does), marry… but their unborn child perishes in an earthquake. They go on to adopt a child, but this barely brings an end to their misfortune, as remembered through flashbacks and from the point of view of Dunne’s quietly suffering Julie. She puts on different records, every song reminding her of an episode; in each, the film gives its two actors space to arrive at some sort of truth about the characters they play. The most effective episodes are the hushed, mesmerising scenes of trivial parental chores. The semi-autobiographical story by Martha Cheavens caught Stevens’s attention and he requested that the rights be acquired for his first Columbia Pictures assignment. The socialist-turned-conservative Pulitzer Prize winner Morrie Ryskind wrote the main draft, trimmed by Stevens and his old collaborator from the Hal Roach days, Fred Guiol. Stevens made sure the stars understood why they were dragged from their world of high living and fun down into darker territory, where comic relief is only spasmodic. The couple move abroad, leave the big city and finally settle in Small Town, USA. As the cities get smaller, their dreams diminish. It’s a test of love and commitment in a familial setting across the decades; while not so chronologically wide-ranging as Giant it is more sombre and sincere. A transitional film in various ways. Stevens, with his usual distanced style, which forbids any signs of the maudlin, tells a tragedy without a sense of tragedy.