Made for Each Other Reviews
At the point at which this film, not one of the highlights of cinema's greatest year, was released, Carole Lombard had less than two years to live. She had a couple of months left until her marriage to Clark Gable. And so it is more than a little unsettling to see a desperate flight, a "mercy plane" defying a storm to bring serum to a dying child, and to see that plane spiral downward. I have read that her mother begged her not to fly but resigned herself to it and climbed on the plane alongside her. She even pulled rank to get on that doomed flight, saying that the amount she'd raised in war bonds should overcome the fact that she didn't actually have one. And Clark Gable joined the military in what was probably a suicide attempt. The woman who lived through that had guts, and she wouldn't stand for how she's treated in this movie.
John Horace Mason (Jimmy Stewart) had known Jane (Lombard) for one day when he married her while on a business trip to Boston. He lives, alas, with his mother (Lucile Watson), a bit of an old battle-ax who thinks John should instead have married Eunice Doolittle (Ruth Weston), who has among other things the distinct advantage of being the niece of his boss, Judge Doolittle (Charles Coburn). Another young lawyer at the firm, Conway (Eddie Quillan), takes credit for John's work and gets the junior partnership John deserves. He and Jane have a baby, John, Jr. (Bonnie Belle Barber, because babies don't have to play their own sex), and when Jane gets John to work up enough never to insist on a raise and a partnership, the judge instead tells John that he's going to get a twenty-five percent pay cut, because times are hard. And then the baby gets sick.
The thing is, about half the movie is a lighthearted domestic comedy. At about the point that John gets his pay-cut, we swerve hard into the land of the melodrama. And it isn't even good melodrama. It's pretty dumb. The idea that all the serum for this particular condition in the country is in Salt Lake City, which is locked in by snow, is kind of ludicrous to me. It's supposed to be based on something that really happened to David O. Selznick's brother, but I assume his brother wasn't in, you know, [i]Manhattan[/i]. The idea that he can wake up his boss, who's always seemed kind of self-absorbed, in the middle of the night, weep all over him, and get five thousand bucks to get a pilot to risk his life is unbelievable, too. The judge who appears in the rest of the film seems more likely to call the cops, though you never can tell what would happen to people in some situations.
Look, I'm with everyone in the film. I don't think John should've married Jane after only a day. I think maybe Conway was a little snarkier than necessary when he said the judge would have a problem that John had done it on company time, but there was the whole thing with introducing Jane to her new mother-in-law. I don't think John knew, for example, that Jane doesn't seem to know anything about housekeeping. Mrs. Mason the elder is a harridan, and it's no wonder that the various housekeepers all quit. (Except Lily, played by Louise Beavers, who just feels sorry for her. Which must have driven her nuts.) But it would have been nice to have known going in that your new wife couldn't keep house without someone paid to do all the actual work. At that, how much actual work was there to do before the baby was born? In my generation, people didn't have maids, so I'm never sure what people needed maids for.
At that, the fact that John and Jane didn't know each other before they got married doesn't add much to the plot. All marriages involve getting to know one another. Even when you've lived with someone before marriage, I think. The pressures are different to marriage. And simply knowing that your mother-in-law wanted your husband to marry someone else can be good enough, no matter how long you knew him first. After all, it's hard to picture John taking much of anyone home to meet Mother. Because Mother would pretty well want to shrivel them at a glance. On a good day. I mean, she actually gets angry that her son and his wife might perhaps want to go somewhere and have fun on New Year's Eve without her, and she's irate that they might be as concerned about the baby's health as they are about hers. By the end of things, you know the wrong person's in that oxygen tent.
Fine acting by Jimmy Stewart, Carole Lombard and Ward Bond (later wagon train leader on WAGON TRAIN,a televison series, and notably a frequent actor in John Wayne westerns). The acting elevates this film to 80% whereas without it well?
A thoughtful taste of what viewers can relate to in a rocky beginning to a marriage.
Compared to those films, I'm unsure how Made for Each Other stands up today.
The acting performances were good, though.