|PENNY SERENADE (1941)|
Eva Lee Kuney
|Time: 119 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (Grant).
The third and most somber pairing of Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. Their talent for honest emotion and hilarious slapstick make this romantic melodrama about the joys and sorrows of parenthood better than it might have been. The gimmick of the film has Dunne's character flashing back on the major events of her recently defunct marriage as she plays her favorite records. The chosen song for each segment sets the tone for the trials and tribulations that are about to take place. Unlike most love stories, SERENADE focuses on the couple's life after the wedding instead of before. Grant and Dunne share an easy chemistry onscreen that shows their feelings for each other quite clearly. Julie (Dunne) and Roger's (Grant) whirlwind marriage begins on a high note and quickly succumbs to tragedy. An accident permanently ends their chances of having a family of their own, something Dunne is unable to accept. Despite a fairly unstable business (they own a small local newspaper), their obvious love for each other convinces the agency head Miss Oliver (Bondi) to consider them as candidates to adopt a newborn girl.
Trina's not exactly what they wanted a 2-year-old boy but there's something about her that immediately captures their hearts. Though they wanted a baby very much, they are completely unprepared to take care of one. Neither character has any experience with fulfilling the needs of a newborn, unleashing some honest, comic and poignant moments. After a rough couple of days, and some help from their managing editor (Buchanan), they begin to enjoy their roles as parents. When the time comes for the adoption to be finalized, they almost lose Trina due to financial difficulties. Despite Miss Oliver's support, it's Roger's impassioned plea that sways the judge and grants them permanent custody. His speech about what it means to be a family is assuredly what garnered Grant the Oscar nod for this performance. The emotions are pure and the argument heartfelt. Just try and keep back the tears. Once this hurdle is overcome, their life settles into a happy routine of birthdays and Christmas plays, that is until tragedy strikes once more. It appears their marriage isn't going to weather this latest storm, but a last minute miracle reunites the couple and repairs their family once again, giving them a new lease on life.