Sog: Sidney Harmon. Scen: Irwin Shaw, Sidney Buchman. F: Ted Tetzlaff. M.: Otto Meyer. Scgf: Lionel Banks. Mus: Frederick Hollander. Int: Cary Grant (Leopold Dilg), Jean Arthur (Nora Shelley), Ronald Colman (Michael Lightcap), Edgar Buchanan (Sam Yates), Emma Dunn (Mrs. Shelley), Rex Ingram (Tilney), Glenda Farrell (Regina Bush), Charles Dingle (Andrew Holmes), Leonid Kinskey (Jan Pulaski), Tom Tyler (Clyde Bracken). Prod: George Stevens per Columbia Pictures. DCP.
This superbly acted and totally unpredictable love triangle is a ‘serious comedy’, if such a thing exists. Cary Grant, in a clear turn in his screen persona, plays Dilg, a leftist factory worker accused of carrying out a deadly arson attack. His escape from prison accelerates the hysteria of a town in a rush to see him hanged. In order to hide he breaks into the home of his old high-school classmate (played by Jean Arthur) on the eve of her renting the house to a law professor, played by Ronald Colman. It’s then that the house becomes a stage-like space managed by the bouncy Arthur, who stands between and becomes the love interest of the sardonic and mumbling Grant and the noble and cogent Colman. In this platonic ménage à trois, the contrasting ideologies bind the trio together: “A happy family,” Colman calls it. Abstract ideas in regard to law and justice are re-examined and turned into action. In the process, the house that is meant to be a refuge for Colman’s intellectual creativity becomes the centre of local affairs. As in Woman of the Year, according to Stevens’s view of wartime responsibilities as a citizen and human being, even those who are trying to avoid politics become involved – but unlike that film, the political alignment has matured and gained relevance. Furthermore, as in Shane, the film acknowledges violence and force as instruments that are integral to civilisation but its view of small-town bigotry, the manipulation of justice and mob culture are daringly new to Stevens’s world and remain frighteningly resonant. Made with almost the same crew as Penny Serenade (except Ted Tetzlaff, borrowed from Paramount, serving as the DoP), two different endings were considered (Nora leaving with each of the two men) but only the existing one was filmed. Delightful in each and every scene, the film was nominated for seven Oscars, including best film, but didn’t win any.