Saturday, April 24, 2021

On This Day...Penny Serenade (1941)

Today sees the release of Cary Grant's 39th film, Penny Serenade, back in 1941. It was his third and last film with Irene Dunne.


As Julie (Irene Dunne) prepares to leave her husband Roger (Cary Grant), she begins to play through a stack of recordings, each of which reminds her of events in their lives together. One of them is the song that was playing when she and Roger first met in a music store. 

Other songs remind her of their courtship, their marriage, their desire for a child, and the joys and sorrows that they have shared. A flood of memories comes back to her as she ponders their present problems and how they arose.

"Cary Grant turns in a surprise performance as he fills the dramatic requirements of his serious role."
Philip T. Hartung, The Commonweal

"Cary Grant is thoroughly good, in some ways to the point of surprise, for there is not only that easy swing and hint of the devil in him, but faith and passion expressed, the character held together where it might so easily have fallen into the component parts of too good, the silly, etc. His scene with the judge is one of the rightly moving things in the picture."
- Otis Ferguson, The New Republic.


 Irene Dunne ... Julie Gardiner
 Cary Grant ... Roger Adams
 Beulah Bondi ... Miss Oliver
 Edgar Buchanan ... Applejack
 Ann Doran ... Dotty
 Eva Lee Kuney ... Trina (at the Age of 6 Years)
Leonard Willey ... Doctor Hartley
 Wallis Clark ... Judge
Walter Soderling ... Billings
 Jane Biffle ... Trina (at the Age of 1 Year) 

Did You Know?

In a flagrant disregard of the then Production Code, it would appear that Irene Dunne and Cary Grant share a marital bed instead of separate ones. Also, there's an implication that the two have sex on a train, something unheard of in the morally hidebound 1940s.

Third of three movies that paired Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, following The Awful Truth (1937) and My Favorite Wife (1940). In all three, they played spouses.

Cary Grant, one of the cinema's greatest comedic actors, was only ever nominated twice for an Academy Award for Best Actor, in both instances for lesser-known dramatic roles. This was one of them, followed three years later by None But the Lonely Heart (1944)

"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on November 16, 1941 with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne reprising their film roles.

Cary Grant considered his role in this film as his best performance.

Irene Dunne once said, "One thing about Cary, he was afraid of sentiment. He was leery of a scene with the little girl in 'Penny Serenade' in which he had to break down and cry. The director, George Stevens, had to convince him that he would never regret having exposed his emotions."


Judge: [Judge firmly addressing two unseen attorneys] I'll give you an opportunity to better prepare your facts.
Man: [Hands Judge some papers] Adoption proceedings, the Adams case.
Judge: What?
Man: The Adams case.
Judge: [Looks disturbed] Oh yes, yes. Uh...
[turns back to attorneys]
Judge: if either one or both of you gentlemen conduct yourselves like you've been doing today I'll hold you in contempt, the both of ya!
Judge: [Walks into chambers, sees Roger, Miss Oliver, and the baby all seated. Sits at desk] Uh, oh this is the child in question. Ahem, let me see. Yes, I recall looking over these adoption papers. I see you have no income at present.
[Looks at Roger]
Judge: Is that correct?
Roger Adams: Yes your Honor.
Judge: Now what is this Miss Oliver? You know this case should never have come before me.
Miss Oliver: Well your Honor I feel that this is a special case. I kept hoping until the last minute Mr. Adams might be able to resume the operation of his paper or get a job. But unfortunately he hasn't been able to do either, so I thought...
Judge: Under these conditions I can't grant the adoption. This child will have to revert to the orphanage.
[Gestures to Roger]
Judge: Will you draw up a chair please while I prepare these release papers for you to sign? Just a matter of routine.
Roger Adams: If you please your Honor, it can't just be a matter of routine for people to have their baby taken away from them. This child is ours Judge...
Judge: [Interrupting] Those are the requirements of the law.
Roger Adams: Yes but you see we've had her since she was six weeks old. It just doesn't seem reasonable to give her back to-to-to strangers.
Judge: Mr. Adams, you're not here to plead your case. You've had the regular opportunity to prove your fitness to provide.
Roger Adams: We are fit Judge if you just look at the record.
Judge: Without any income I have no alternative. Didn't you make that clear Miss Oliver?
Miss Oliver: Yes your Honor I did, but I thought...
Judge: [Firmly] I'm sorry but that is the law.
Roger Adams: Look your Honor, she's not like an automobile or an icebox or a piece of furniture or something you buy on time and when you can't give up the payments they take it away from you!
[Baby starts to cry]
Roger Adams: Now sit still and be a good girl. Anyone could give up those kinds of things, but I ask you Judge how can you give up your own child? And she is our child just as much as if she'd been born to us!
[Baby continues crying]
Roger Adams: Now, now, Daddy's not going to go away.
[Baby stops crying and smiles]
Roger Adams: Look Judge, we've had her over a year now. Why we-we walked the floor with her when she had the colic. We've lost nights of sleep worrying every time she cut a tooth. We've gone through everything, everything real parents have with one of their own. Ask Miss Oliver here about the inspections we've had to have. Her-her weight charts, her vaccination certificates, h-her toys, her toothbrush! How many parents could keep one of their own and
[voice cracks]
Roger Adams: go through that? And you sit here and say it's a matter of routine for you to take her away from us.
Miss Oliver: Please! Mr. Adams...
Roger Adams: I'm sorry Judge, but we weren't as fortunate as most people. We would've had one of our own only-only... well you don't know how badly my wife wanted a child. It wasn't so important to me. I-I don't know, I suppose most men are like this but children never meant a great deal to me. Oh I liked them alright I suppose, but well what I'm trying to say is your Honor the first time I saw her... she looked so little and helpless. I didn't know babies were so-so little. And then she took a-hold of my finger and I held onto it. She-she just sort of walked into my heart Judge
[begins to cry]
Roger Adams: and-and she was there to stay. I didn't know I could feel like that! I'd always been well, kind of careless and irresponsible. I wanted to be a big shot. And I couldn't work for anybody, I had to be my own boss, that sort of thing. Now here I am standing in front of a judge pleading for just a little longer so that I can prove to you I can support a little child that doesn't weigh quite twenty pounds. It's not only for my wife and me I'm asking you to let us keep her Judge, it's for her sake too. She doesn't know any parents but us.
[starts sobbing]
Roger Adams: She wouldn't know what'd happened to her. You see there's so many little things about her that nobody would understand her the way Julie and I do. We love her Judge, please don't take her away from us. Look, I'm not a big shot now, I-I'll do anything, I'll work for anybody.
[Starts to break down]
Roger Adams: I-I'll beg, I'll borrow, I-I'll... please Judge I'll sell anything I've got until I get going again. And she'll never go hungry, she'll never be without clothes not so long as I've got two good hands so help me!
[Camera fades out as Judge, Roger, and Miss Oliver all ponder what has just been said]

Roger Adams: She's yours, dear. Ours, now and forever. Nothing can ever take her from us now.

Roger Adams: But we don't know anything about such little babies.
Miss Oliver: [Chuckling] Well, no one does until they have them.

Lobby Cards:

Directed by George Stevens.
Produced and Distributed by Columbia.
Running time: 120 minutes.

Artwork by Rebekah Hawley of Studio 36.

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