After Rochellelynn’s last Post – A Christmas Wish and Lots of Prayin, a Facebook Classic Hollywood follower commented asking what our thoughts were about Penny Serenade as a Christmas movie…my first reaction was an emphatic NO. Then since I have a habit of leaping before I look I decided to reconsider and actually watch the entire movie before making a decision.
The Story of a Happy Marriage – From Me to You Xmas 1932~ Is the title on the phonograph album Edgar Buchanan’s character pulls from a record shelf in the opening scene of Penny Serenade. He chooses the record ‘You Were Meant for Me’ and plays it as Irene Dunne’s character enters the room and tells him to turn it off. Irene is leaving on the eleven o’clock train. Edgar asks her to think about it. Well she has been thinking about it and has decided she and her husband played by Cary Grant ‘don’t need each other anymore, and when that happens there is nothing left.’
After Edgar leaves to get Irene’s train ticket Irene looks into a child’s bedroom then goes to the phonograph album leafing thru the records, each record holds a special meaning; when she & Cary first meet fall in love, get married, their time in Japan when he was a reporter, their baby. Then Irene plays the record she had just told Edgar’s character to turn off ‘You Were Meant for Me’. A sad Irene thinks back…
Background music plays a big part in this movie to move the story along. Irene’s character’s pregnancy, her loss of the baby, finding out she can never have children. Favorite character actor Edgar Buchanan (Applejack) family friend suggests adoption. Beulah Bondi plays the lady at the adoption agency (I expected her to be played as a mean old crank but got a warm & fuzzy Beulah instead). Edgar’s scene bathing the newly adopted baby girl is fascinating especially the ‘folding’ the diaper and putting it on the baby scene.
The ‘My Blue Heaven’ record plays when Beulah Bondi’s character returns to the home for the one year trial inspection. Cary’s character the owner of a small town newspaper is out of work no income. One of the prerequisites of having an adopted child is a steady income. Rules are rules no income no child. Cary will have to talk to the judge. I must say while watching Cary give his impassioned speech to the judge I had to Google Cary…his acting in this scene was Oscar worthy. I was pleased to see that he was at least nominated for his acting in this movie. Unfortunately he lost out to Gary Cooper in Sergeant York.
Cary and Irene’s six year old adopted daughter Trina is played by Eva Lee Kuney. For the Christmas school play (yes they used to do that back in the day before it became politically incorrect),Trina is too young to be in the angel chorus but she would have an important part as an echo during the song Silent Night, all she needed to wear was a nice dress and a pair of sneakers.
‘Next year when I’m big I get to be an angel’, ‘I don’t know what we’d do without you honey’ are telling lines as the next record plays and a handwritten letter arriving on Beulah Bondi’s desk from Irene starts with ‘another year, another Christmas’ and we lost Trina three weeks ago.
There are several visual explanations in this movie, the record segues, the sneakers on Trina, the letter written by Irene Dunne to Beulah Bondi, the movie starts at Christmas and ends at Christmas it shows the happiness and despair in one couple’s life that could pertain to anyone’s life. Christmas is a time to reflect, sometimes to start over but it also brings us hope and that is how the movie ends with a new hope. (Sorry for the Star Wars pun).
Two hours long Penny Serenade was released by Columbia Pictures in April of 1941 and doesn’t really touch on Christmas until about an hour and a half into the movie. So thanks Cane for asking the question. I’m thinking it wasn’t released as a Christmas movie however I would add it to a list of movies to be watched during the Christmas Season.