Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Penny Serenade (1941)

Penny Serenadeis a spin worth taking.

Told in flashbacks with records tied to pivotal moments, this 1941 drama from director George Stevens (Shane, Giant) considers the relationship of Roger and Julie Adams (Cary Grand and Irene Dunn).

Their marriage appears to be over. Why, we don't know until near the end of the film's two-hour running time.

It's music that brings this couple together. Roger hears a song played at a record store. He sees Julie and is smitten.

Their relationship starts and deepens. These kids are crazy about each other, but Roger isn't too keen on having children of his own. When a job comes up to report in Japan, he's game and, on New Year's Eve, asks Julie to marry him.

There's more spur of the moment decisions by Roger - rash perhaps - that rankle his better half. He lives in spacious quarters, with servants, in Japan. He'd fit in with folks who live above their means in 2014, taking advances on his salary to pay the bills. Julie, who joins him in the Far East, is rattled by his decision to quit his job and travel the world with a modest inheritance. What about our baby, she asks.

The couple return to America and set up shop in a small California town. Roger wants to run his own newspaper. Circulation isn't as big as his dreams. There's bad news with their expected child. An earthquake in Japan badly hurt Julie. She can't bear children. Julie wants to adopt. Roger needs some coaxing.

There's no grand adventures in Penny Serenade. Roger struggles to get by. Julie wants a child. They get their wish when a newborn becomes available for adoption. There's some funny scenes as the inexperienced parents deal with a crying infant that needs to be washed and diapered. Roger grows to love being a dad. But tough times in the newspaper business - hello again 2014 - mean the couple don't have the income necessary to formally adopt Trina. They risk losing her and eventually each other.

"We don't need each other anymore," Julie suggests as their marriage hits a tough stretch.

Penny Serenade is touching without being melodramatic, funny without being a farce.

Hurray for Edgar Buchanan as Applejack Carney, a friend of the couple whose handy in the childcare department and quick with a joke.

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: That's Eva Lee Kuney as Trina at age six. She appeared in seven films between 1935 and 1948 including A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Cary Grant received an Oscar nomination for best actor for his work in Penny Serenade.

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