JOHN LOVES MARY (1949) 

Ronald Reagan
Jack Carson
Patricia Neal
Wayne Morris
Edward Arnold
Virginia Field
Katharine Alexander
Paul Harvey
Ernest Cossart

David Butler



Time: 96 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Comedy/Romance

SYNOPSIS: A returning soldier is forced to postpone marrying his long-suffering girlfriend because he secretly wedded his best friend's girl in order to get her into the USA.

BOTTOM LINE: Reagan and Neal acquit themselves well in this comedy of errors that's cute and quaint but certainly not a classic. It's more than a bit odd seeing the man who once became president as a sweet, bumbling romantic just trying to do the right thing. He's not a bad actor and in fact sparks heartily with Neal, which is one of the main reasons this film works at all. Their four year separation due to his military service in Europe has left both of them desperate to be together and more than a little nervous that their love connection will no longer be there. Neal's Mary is a perfectionist with lofty expectations and when her reunion with John doesn't go exactly as planned, she chooses to believe it's because he's lost interest in her.

Never in her wildest dreams did it occur to her that her man might have married someone else. Granted he did it to reunite the man that saved his life, Fred (Carson), with the woman of his dreams Lilly (Fields), but his matchmaking goes awry when he discovers that Fred has already healed his broken heart with the love of a new woman. With Lilly due to arrive any day, John must figure out how he's going to get to Reno with her to obtain a divorce without Mary and her powerful senator father finding out the truth about the trip and his current marital status. Though the plot has it's ridiculous moments, Reagan and Carson manage to keep some modicum of dignity about them despite their wacky machinations.

Neal is a tad too uptight and intelligent to be in this kind of picture, but those qualities, which don't help the comedy, do aid in giving the enterprise a bit more depth and class. Her belief that his stall tactics are hiding the fact that he doesn't love her anymore is somewhat heartbreaking, especially since it's a situation many woman waiting for their men to return from the war found themselves in. Is her reaction to cut him out of her heart rational? Perhaps not, but if I had to wait that long I'm not sure I'd act any better. Most of the film's fun comes in watching John and Fred attempt to extricate themselves from John's impending nuptials and Lilly's understandable fury. A top-notch supporting cast, led by Arnold and Morris, practically steals the show from the young lovers. They are what make this film more than a one-note affair. This being my first Reagan picture, I have no idea how it stands up to the rest, however, I can say I was more than pleasantly surprised. The plot is silly with an ending that's just a bit too pat, but the emotions behind it are honest and heartfelt, making this a delightful if not deep way to pass the time.

"Mary, do you ever think of anything and decide not to say it."

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