PENNY SERENADE (1941) 
CAST
Irene Dunne
Cary Grant
Beulah Bondi
Edgar Buchanan
Ann Doran
Eva Lee Kuney
Leonard Willey
Wallis Clark
Walter Soderling

DIRECTED BY
George Stevens
PURCHASE


Movie




Time: 119 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama


AWARDS: Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (Grant).

This is 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.

They wind up in court fighting for their newfound family and 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.

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"We don't need each other anymore. When that happens to two people, there's nothing left."

This film would have been totally unwatchable if it weren't for the chemistry and talent of its leads. It is certainly one of the more normal roles Grant ever played in his career and while he's not always convincing as a father, that's sort of the point and makes him seem even more charming because of it. While heartfelt and honest as a portrayal of the bumps on the road of life, it's not a very fun film to sit through as you are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you're a fan of Grant it's worth a peak since it's one of the only Best Actor nominations he ever received.



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