Showing posts with label Merrily We Go to Hell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Merrily We Go to Hell. Show all posts

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Merrily We Go To Hell (1932)

    "...a brief treat among the supporting players though, in the shape of Cary Grant..."

With Sylvia Sidney and Fredric March.

Merrily We Go To Hell:

"Merrily We Go To Hell focuses on the turbulent relationship between Joan Prentice (Sylvia Sidney) and Jerry Corbett (Arzner regular Fredric March). They first meet at a party, where Jerry is drunk but charming and they arrange a dinner date, which Jerry is late for but eventually attends.

Though Jerry’s drunken antics cause concern for Joan, she’s too smitten by him to give up. After they marry, he becomes much better behaved, though they have financial worries whilst he struggles to make a name for himself as a playwright.  When Jerry does get a play sold, it stars his old flame, Claire Hempstead (Adrianne Allen), and this reunion knocks him off the wagon. He also starts to get romantically involved with Claire again, barely hiding it from Joan in his frequently drunken state.

Joan attempts to stand fast and keep Jerry on the straight and narrow but eventually has enough and attempts to show her husband what pain he’s causing by living a wild and free life herself.

Merrily We Go To Hell has quite an unusual tone. From the title and blurb I’d read, I was expecting a riotous screwball comedy. However, though there is plenty of comedy in the film, it’s countered by quite serious drama. It’s very much a film of two halves in fact, with the first leaning more heavily towards romantic comedy, then the second skewing much closer to drama, ending on a particularly moving note of tragedy. In the wrong hands, this shift in tone might have been a problem, but Arzner keeps the transition smooth and natural. In fact, it helps strengthen the depiction of the problems the central relationship faces, with Jerry’s alcoholism seeming charming to begin with, before becoming destructive. This mixture of warmth and comedy with cold cynicism makes for a deep and believable depiction of marriage too.

Also helping sell the concept are a pair of great central performances. March plays drunk very well and has enough charisma to prevent his character’s many flaws from turning the audience completely away from him. Sidney is the real star of the show though. Her richly textured performance feels way ahead of its time, with subtle changes in expression belying her breezy, cheerful demeanour. The wedding scene is a particularly strong moment between the pair as their body language and reactions make for a wonderfully awkward atmosphere and add great depth to a scene that’s very straightforward on paper.

The rest of the cast are a bit of a mixed bag, with George Irving a little flat as Joan’s father, for instance, whereas Richard ‘Skeets’ Gallagher is enjoyable as Jerry’s drunken cohort, Buck. There’s a brief treat among the supporting players though, in the shape of Cary Grant, who features in a very early role.

The script can be a bit hit and miss too. There are some amusingly witty lines but it’s not as sharply written overall as some other classic comedies from the era. The story also ladles on the melodrama towards the end with a final scene that ties things up too simply for my liking.

Visually, Arzner and DOP David Abel do a great job. There’s plenty of camera movement that’s only subtly used for the most part, though there are a couple of quite complicated tracking shots in there too. There’s also a nice use of depth in frame, to keep the film visually interesting.

I didn’t feel the pace was well maintained though. Perhaps it’s because I was expecting more of a screwball comedy, or it’s due to the quieter nature of the early sound era, but the film didn’t feel as ‘punchy’ as it could be.

Overall, however, Merrily We Go To Hell is a sensitive, yet frank and honest examination of a troubled marriage. Its move from comedy to tragedy was unexpected for me and made for an unusual blend, but the transition is well handled. The film isn’t perfect and has some lulls here and there, but some fantastic central performances and assured, intuitive direction make it something special, regardless."


David Brook,, 5 June 2021

New Artwork by Rebekah Hawley at Studio36 -
Number 3 - Merrily We Go To Hell (Lobby Card Style)

Part Of

For more, see also:

On This Day 10 June 2020

On This Day 09 June 2021

Quote From Today 10 June 2022

Friday, June 10, 2022

Quote From Today... Merrily We Go To Hell (1932)


"To the ladies. They keep their hearts, and change their minds"

With  Sylvia Sidney.

Merrily We Go To Hell was Cary Grant's 3rd full length feature film.

Charlie Baxter:[Toasting] To the ladies. They keep their hearts, and change their minds.

Joan Prentice: Oh, no. We keep our minds, but change our hearts!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

On This Day in 1932....Merrily We Go to Hell and Singapore Sue.

So on this day in 1932, Cary Grant featured in his 3rd full length feature film but also in his film debut.

Singapore Sue:

So this short film is considered to be Cary Grant's film debut. 
The film runs for approx 10 minutes and was filmed in New York.

Cary Grant takes the main role as a sailor on shore leave.

The short film didn't get released until the same time as his 3rd full length feature (see below)

Apparently for this short he is credited as Archie Leach!!

With Anna Chang and Joe Wong.

Written and Directed by Casey Robinson
Running time: 10 minutes

Merrily We Go to Hell:

Cary Grant plays the leading man on stage of the play written by its main character, played by Fredric March.

With Adrienne Allen

With main stars Sylvia Sidney and Fredric March.

With Sylvia Sidney.

Directed by Dorothy Arzner
Produced and Distributed by Paramount Publix
Running time: 88 minutes

Monday, May 18, 2020

Cary Grant and the Pre-Code Era

Between the widespread adoption of sound, in films, from 1929 to the mid 1930's enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code (Hays Code), a Pre-Code period existed.

Although the Hays Code was adopted in 1930, it wasn't enforced until July 1st, 1934.

Before that date film content was regulated between the Studio Relations Committee(SRC), local law and popular opinion. Needless to say, much of the guidelines were ignored by film makers in Hollywood.

What was the Hays Code?

A Hollywood board was set up, and led by Will Hays and Joseph Breen with other prominent members of the Catholic community.
It put together a list of guidelines for film production based on "The Don'ts and Be Carefuls", with became known as the Hays Code.
These were to be voluntarily applied as a form of censorship to avoid the setting up of a censorship board by the federal government.

It was formulated in 1929, presented in 1930 and rigidly enforced from 1934. It was in force until 1965, finally replaced by an age-based system, that is still used today.

The Code was divided into two parts:
  • General Principles 
  • Particular Applications
General Principles:
  1. Prohibited a movie from "lowering the moral standards of those who see it"
  2. Called for depictions of the correct "standards of life"
  3. Forbade a movie from showing any sort of ridicule towards the law or "creating sympathy for its violation".

Particular Applications was a list of items which could not be depicted in a movie. Headings on such items included; Crimes against the Law, Sex, Vulgarity, Obscenity, Profanity, Costumes, Dances, Religion, Locations, National Feelings and Repellent Subjects.

Examples of the Hays Code Application:
  • The Hays Code required that women, in love scenes, at all time have "at least one foot on the floor".
  • People could not be in a horizontal position if they were kissing.
  • Betty Boop had to be "cleaned up". Her skirts lengthened to the knee, and necklines of her dress were raised, so as not to cause offence. Winking and shaking hips were deemed to be "suggestive of immorality". The clean up effectively ruined her on-screen career.
  • Gone With the Wind producer, David O. Selznick had to convince Hays and Breen, that the line "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" was not prejudicial to public morals, under the profanity guidelines.
Cary Grant Films:

Cary Grant appeared in 15 films during this unenforced period of 1929 to 1934.

They were (with examples of what would have been code infractions, if they had been enforced):

This Is the Night (1932)
Sinners in the Sun (1932)
Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)

The title alone shows that it is  pre-code. Also contains infidelity and includes a female as and editor of a newspaper!

Devil and the Deep (1932)
Blonde Venus (1932)

Pre-code contents include women skinny dipping in flesh colored underwear, suggestive dialogue, suggested domestic violence, prostitution, songs including "Hot Voodoo" and "You Little So-and-So", and more including Marlene Dietrich's performance.

Hot Saturday (1932)

Suggestive dialogue, suggested potential rape scene, removal of underwear, view of legs and suggestive grabbing of a females chest.

Madame Butterfly (1932)
She Done Him Wrong (1933)

Portrayal of alcohol and a drunken cop, robbery, murder, counterfeiting, violence, white slavery and Mae West...and a discreetly covered picture.

The Woman Accused (1933)

Murder, decadence, innuendo, suggestive dialogue.

The Eagle and the Hawk (1933)

Violence and combat scenes. Suggestive dialogue.

Gambling Ship (1933)
I'm No Angel (1933)

Suggestive dancing and dialogue. Costumes are provocative, multiple spouses and Mae West again!

Alice in Wonderland (1933)
Thirty Day Princess (1934)


Born to Be Bad (1934)

Suggestive images, single motherhood, child abuse, cheating and infidelity.