In Name Only (1939)
Here’s a solid gem that seems to have been lost in time. It’s far from being Cary Grant’s most popular film. It’s not a screwball comedy for our leading lady Carole Lombard. Kay Francis plays against type as a vindictive wife and lastly, it was released in Hollywood’s golden year of 1939. Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz etc.
This engaging film opens with Carol casting a fishing rod down at a local pond when who should come riding by on horseback but Cary Grant. Wouldn’t you know it, she gets snagged in more ways than one. Both leads are likable here and their chemistry creates instant on screen sparks.
Things seem light and fun between them in their first couple of meetings but begin to take a nasty turn when wife Kay Francis turns up as Grant’s wife. She bends truths and puts Carole in embarrassing situations in order to exert her power over Cary in a loveless marriage. She is more than willing to admit to Grant in private that her marrying him was for money and social standing despite loving another. As for her public persona, she makes it clear to everyone including Cary`s Father played by Charles Coburn that she is the victim. She makes Carole out to be the other woman stealing her husband despite Cary repeatedly asking for a divorce and having little or nothing to do with her social gatherings.
On the understanding of Kay taking a trip to secure a divorce, Cary`s romance with Carole blossoms and they make arrangements to move forward in their lives together. It`s just a matter of waiting for Kay to finalize the divorce proceedings. Unfortunately Kay is one evil……..bitch! There I said it. Leading Coburn by the nose she returns just in time for Christmas and tears the heart out of our romantic leads.
Not to worry because the final scene that director John Cromwell allows Kay is perfectly framed that is sure to close the door for good on her wealth and social standing. It`s not to be missed.
For this dramatic effort with some nice light touches, Cary is well….Cary. Nobody can play the part better than he. His best real life quote is probably `Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.` Having said that, don`t shrug off his talent for dramatics. His scenes with Lombard are at times heartbreaking. With Francis, he struggles to keep his temper in check before almost giving up the will to fight for happiness.
Carole is beautiful in both looks and character here. You cheer for her and want her happiness more than Cary`s. It`s a fine role that surely she was proud of. I don`t think there`s a false note to be found here. I really liked her this time out.
The one surprise here was that I thought Charles Coburn had a fairly one dimensional role which is too bad as he was an immensely talented character actor who would go to win an Oscar for his work in The More the Merrier in 1943.
As for Kay Francis, I guess she did a good job because I wanted to see her just drop dead! A big change in character from the two previous films I have reviewed with her this year. Both were part of my Mad Movie Challenge with Kristina at Speakeasy. As a matter of fact Kristina had mentioned this as a possible challenge so this time I beat her to the punch.
Once again this came from an old VHS tape I picked up if your looking to find a copy.