Penny Serenade

1941, Movie, NR, 125 mins


After Grant and Dunne had finished the hysterical movie THE AWFUL TRUTH, audiences thought that the duo would make another rollicking comedy and the very title, PENNY SERENADE, seemed to indicate a light-hearted romp. Not so. This is a weeper from the start, with only a few moments of comedy placed in so the audience can dry their eyes before the next sentimental barrage. Dunne is about to leave her husband, Grant, and she plays "Penny Serenade" on her Victrola, a tune which takes her, via flashback, to the early days of their marriage. Grant is a newspaper reporter and Dunne works in a music store. They meet, fall in love, marry and go off to Japan where he is on assignment. She becomes pregnant and loses the baby when there is a horrendous earthquake which causes a miscarriage. They return to the US and Grant buys a small newspaper in a tranquil town. Dunne would like to have children but is no longer physically able to, so they plan to adopt a baby. They are in no position to do so financially, and it looks as though the adoption won't go through until Bondi, the head of the adoption agency, helps them. They get the child, Baby Biffle, and raise her until she becomes Kuney and dies suddenly. Their grief pours off the screen and they are about to part when they get a chance to adopt another baby, which brings them back together. Dunne plays several records on her phonograph, including: "You Were Meant for Me" (Arthur Reed, Nacio Herb Brown), a tune that she recalls was playing when she first met Grant, their wedding song "Moonlight and Roses Bring Mem'ries of You" (Ben Black, Neil Moret [Charles N. Daniels]), and "Poor Butterfly," which covers their lives in Japan. The film wavers between tragedy and comedy, although there is one hilarious scene where Grant bathes the baby, which left audiences howling with laughter. Buchanan, as a family pal, steals the picture with his on-the-nose portrait of a kindly, bumbling man who helps them through their crises. Grant was nominated for an Oscar for her performance, losing to Gary Cooper for SERGEANT YORK. leave a comment

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