For Reel

In Name Only (1939)
January 20, 2012, 7:44 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: John Cromwell

Adapted from Bessie Breuer’s novel Memory of Love – a domestic melodrama about a love held at bay by the man’s gold-digging shrew of a wife – In Name Only is an excessive weeper that mostly succeeds due to its game cast. Cary Grant plays the wealthy husband to Kay Francis, who admits that she only married him for his money and social position. When Grant asks Francis for a divorce in order to begin a relationship with the radiant Carole Lombard, with whom he is really in love, Francis refuses. The picture is handled well by all of the performers, most of all Francis, who gives what risked becoming a one-dimensional character a tangible arc of her own. There’s a sensitivity in her early scenes that suggests that her reluctance to divorce is fueled by jealousy – it is revealed that she had been having an affair and that her lover had died – and her transition to the all-out harpy doesn’t fully transpire until the third act. And what a bitch she makes. Her scenes with Lombard, in particular, are lively, with their passive-aggressive dialogue creating a thrilling war of equally empowered women. As maudlin as the final scenes might be, it is nice to see Grant in a position that is so utterly vulnerable and, though he may not quite pull it off completely, Lombard is terrific as the supporting lover.

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