Sunday, March 10, 2013

Loretta Young: 'The Doctor Takes a Wife'


“The Doctor Takes a Wife,” released in 1940, was the first of three movies Loretta Young made at Columbia Pictures.
Young had made more than 60 films by this point. When 20th Century studios formed in the early 1930s – which soon became 20th Century Fox – Young was signed by studio head Darryl F. Zanuck and became one of his top female stars. Unfortunately, she had been unhappy at 20th Century Fox, and her animosity toward Zanuck was growing. When her contract came up for renewal after she finished “The Story of Alexander Graham Bell,” she refused to sign another one and became a freelance artist. Although she made “Eternally Yours” with independent producer Walter Wanger, no offers were coming her way.
Her agent, Myron Selznick, confirmed that the major studios were steering clear of her in a gentleman’s agreement with Zanuck, whom they did not want to cross. According to the book “King Cohn,” Selznick told Young the only major studio head willing to go against the others was Harry Cohn if he felt he was getting a bargain. Young said to negotiate a deal because she wanted to work, and a deal for half of her asking price was made. 

 
“The Doctor Takes a Wife” is a romantic comedy, and Young plays June Cameron, the headstrong, independent-thinking author of the best-selling “Spinsters Ain’t Spinach.” When she needs to return to New York from a vacation in New England, June cannot find transportation and instead talks her way into a ride from a medical school instructor named Timothy Sterling (Ray Milland). During a stop on their journey, a “just married” sign is mistakenly affixed to the back of their car, leading to immediate gossip that the proud single author and champion of the single girl had secretly wed.
When the press finds out, June’s publisher, John Pierce (Reginald Gardiner), encourages her to confirm the marriage and write a book on marriage. Meanwhile, Timothy discovers that his so-called marriage is leading to a promotion. When John proposes they live together while the book is written and then get a divorce after its publication, the two agree, and Timothy moves in with June. 


Young initially seems miscast. With the film made at Columbia, the role feels ideal for another of the studio’s top actresses, Jean Arthur. And the first 15 minutes or so, Young seems shrill as June continually asserts her superiority over Timothy. Arthur would not have made June so insufferable.
However, as the movie progresses, Young tones down the harsher edges of June and finds the character’s appeal. Ultimately, Young is appealing in the role and you understand the attraction between June and Timothy. It helps that the brisk pacing, fun situations and a strong cast add to the fun.
Milland is a fine comic leading man, and here he’s clearly enjoying himself, especially in a fine scene where he manages to host a party at his and June’s apartment while climbing out the window to the apartment next door to make dinner for his fiancé Marilyn (Gail Patrick), who thinks she’s at his residence.
Director Alexander Hall keeps the story moving. He would actually helm all three of Young’s films with Columbia.  
After a bumpy start, “The Doctor Takes a Wife” is a fun romp. It misses greatness, but it is likable and fun, with several laugh-out-loud moments.  
Next up for Young at Columbia was “He Stayed for Breakfast,” which I cannot find to watch, unfortunately. Her third film was “Bedtime Story,” which I will review next.

19 comments:

  1. I rather enjoy this one. It's no great shakes, but its a very agreeable 90 minutes. Since director Alexander Hall directed one of my favorite movies, "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" I have a soft spot for him. My appreciation for Loretta has grown over the years.

    Never saw "He Stayed for Breakfast" either. My dad said he remembers a downtown marquee that was showing this, paired with a live stage show. The marquee read, in big letters - He Stayed for Breakfast - and below that, in smaller letters - With 40 Chorus Girls.

    That's some breakfast.

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    1. That's hilarious about the marquee. This was a fun movie, one I would watch again. And I agree about "Here Comes Mr. Jordan."

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  2. CFB, I haven't seen this one, must have missed it during Loretta Young's recent 'month' on TCM. Will keep an eye for it. I have to admire Loretta for striking out on her own at a time when doing so was an iffy proposition.

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    1. I agree. I'm glad Harry Cohn signed her up, because her 1940s work turned out to be consistently good.

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  3. Filmboy, I saw this awhile back and enjoyed it too. It's not a great movie, but as Kevin said, an agreeable one, the kind of modest but proficient and reasonably intelligent entertainment propelled by star power that Hollywood was so good at. I've seen a few other movies of the many Hall directed that could be described similarly. He directed one of my favorite early Claudette Colbert films, "Torch Singer." As everyone seems to agree, though, "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" was something else, one of Hollywood's most memorable and original forays into the afterlife.

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    1. Well-said. And "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" is pretty terrific. I have not seen "Torch Singer" but will remember to look for it.

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  4. Yeah, this is pretty much the only Loretta Young movie I caught in January, but it was a nice little treat. I was amazed that they handled Young's character in such a way to not be outright insulting to women, though quite a few of those 1940's romantic cliches do manage to squeak in. Milland, as always, surprises me with just how good he is at romantic comedy-- The Lost Weekend and his later work with AIP always override that tidbit of knowledge. Definitely a nice solid flick.

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    1. HI Danny, Glad you stopped by and that you enjoyed this film. It is a nice little treat, and it's one I'll have to rewatch every now and then.

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  5. I highlighted this film back in January (Loretta Young month), and I said virtually the same thing you did..."not the greatest movie ever made and no thought-provoking message, just good, clean, entertaining fun."

    I don't lean to comedy and rarely do well with it, but I completely and totally enjoy this one. It's among my top 5 faves of both Young and Milland.

    I get a kick out of how much they use the word "spinster" in the old movies. It's such a nasty-sounding word, made even worse by linking it with spinach in the title "Spinsters Ain't Spinach." What woman nowadays would buy a book with that kind of title!

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    1. Hi Patti, Thank you for stopping by. "Spinster" is a strange-sounding word, and the notion that you reach a certain age (and a relatively young one) means you are called that. I think the film has some fun with it by pairing it with spinach. and really, Loretta Young a spinster??? :)

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  6. I love the photo you've posted of Ray Milland giving the stink eye to Loretta Young. He can do no wrong in my eyes, whether it's drama or comedy.

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    1. He was terrific, I agree. Glad you liked the stink eye :)

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  7. Thanks for choosing this film to blog about Classicfilmboy. It's often neglected, and although not a great film, as you say, its a very enjoyable Loretta Young film. I also love the fashions Loretta wears, most likely designed by Irene although no designer is credited.

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    1. You are welcome. Yes, the fashions, and they are even more incredible in "Bedtime Story," which I'm reviewing next.

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  8. i just watched this and Bedtime Stories for the first time over this past weekend and really enjoyed them both (Bedtime being a better film overall imo) Young surprised me with her comedic skills, she can be quite funny and as always, totally easy on the eyes! I agree, the scene with Milland going back and forth between the 2 apts was hilarious! nice review! :D

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  9. Thank you for stopping by and your comments! Glad you enjoyed the films; will get Bedtime Story up this weekend (I hope!).

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  10. I bought this movie about 2 years ago, and I think I am wearing it out.
    I simp;y loved it so much. I laughed so much. I love Ray Milland Nad Loretta Young, and what chemistry. I love the way he raises his left eyebrow when congused.
    One of my favories.
    Thanks for posting.
    Dee

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  11. Hi Dee, I'm glad you enjoyed the post and that you are enjoying the movie even more. Thank you for stopping by!

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