Monday, January 16, 2017

Made For Each Other

The Carole Lombard: The Profane Angel Blogathon is an event honoring the life and career of the actress, hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the links at the host sites.

Made For Each Other
YouTube viewing

As I watched Made For Each Other, I couldn't help drawing comparisons to Penny Serenade, which I saw weeks ago. They're both ordinary, down-to-earth tales of married couples trying to start families and sustain their relationships amidst the travails of pre-war life. Compared to modern movies, it's surprising to see such care and detail applied to stories like these without some kind of "hook" attached - and I don't even mean magic or aliens or superpowers; more like the wacky best friend, or the wacky scheme that grows out of control.

There are a few important structural differences. Unlike Penny, Made forgoes the courtship period between Jimmy Stewart and Carole Lombard and begins with the two of them already married, after an unusually brief whirlwind acquaintance. Made places a greater emphasis on outside pressures, in the form of Stewart's boss, Charles Coburn, and his mother, Lucille Watson (no relation), threatening the stability of the marriage. The former doesn't really appreciate Stewart and the latter doesn't really appreciate Lombard.

Both films, though, emphasize long-term career issues for the husbands and domestic difficulties for the wives. I found it interesting that Lombard gives up her career goals to become a wife and mother without any complaints. They could've used the extra income later on when they have money problems.

Speaking of which: Lombard's a housewife and Watson lives with them, yet Stewart throws away dough on a maid? Several, in succession, in fact? No wonder they have money problems! At first, I thought they were upper-class because of Watson's proper enunciation and bearing, but they weren't. Poor acting choice there.

Starting a family is a big deal in both films, but Penny places a greater emphasis on this plot point. For Cary Grant & Irene Dunne, the success or failure of their marriage is directly tied to their ability to have and raise a child. This is not nearly as true in Made; having a child feels more like a natural outgrowth of events as they progress.

Both films place the child in jeopardy (spoilers to follow). In Penny, the child gets sick and dies off-screen. Her death is not as important as Grant & Dunne's reaction to same. In Made, the child's sickness is played for MAXIMUM GRIEF: the shocking discovery; the tears, Lombard's, anyway - Stewart's tears are implied but not shown, because, y'know, he's a man (in contrast to Grant's "Please let me keep my baby" scene in Penny); the desperate search for a cure; even the daring cross-country plane trip through inclement weather with the serum that'll save Junior - I mean, it's shameless how this film milks the suspense down to the wire.

Sociologically, these films, and others from around the same period such as Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House and the Andy Hardy moviesrepresent detailed glimpses of the kind of life Americans aspired to before World War 2 flipped the script. No mention is made of the Depression in either Penny or Made; the hard times the characters suffer have no relation to the national economic conditions, or to the slowly-building European conflict. In that sense, these films are idealized, but it was probably as comforting to audiences of the day as your average MGM musical.

While I can't say I loved either movie that much, I think I give the very slight edge to Penny. Grant & Dunne's relationship seemed a touch more complex than that of Stewart & Lombard. Plus, I liked the use of music as a storytelling device. Made seemed more straightforward by comparison.

Other films by Carole Lombard:
Nothing Sacred
To Be or Not To Be


  1. I was keen to read your review because someone just gave me a DVD of "Made for Each Other", and I haven't yet had a chance to watch it. Sounds like a terrific line-up of actors even if there's a bit of miscasting, as you mentioned. I can imagine this film (along with "Penny Serenade" and the Andy Hardy enterprise) did bring comfort to audiences back in the day. Enjoyed your review – especially the comparisons to "Penny Serenade".

  2. Thanks. It was a fortuitous bit of timing that invited me to compare the two films. PENNY wasn't too far from my mind, and the two films had so much in common that it seemed natural to hold them up against each other.

  3. Lucile Watson has played nice mothers (The Women), but she truly excels at being domineering. I haven't seen this in ages, but recall not being pleased with the manipulation of the plane trip and not terribly invested in our leading couple. I did want to slap Lucile Watson a couple of times. I remember that very well.

  4. The stuff with the plane trip turns the movie into something completely different: it goes from domestic drama to suspense thriller. While the change isn't drastic, it's still jarring, and it takes the focus off the main characters for no good reason.

    I wanted to slap Lucille Watson once or twice myself!

  5. I agree that I'm not fond of either film but would pick Penny over this one, even though I love Lombard. I never like it when a lead character's parent doesn't approve of the spouse when they have done nothing wrong. It's usually not written well enough to be convincing. Especially in films where the couple has been married like 10 years and they (the parents) are still hoping for a divorce.

    Thanks for joining the Blogathon! I would have never thought to compare these movies! Sorry I took so long to comment. It's been a crazy week :)

  6. Quite alright. If I hadn't have seen PENNY so recently, I wouldn't have made the comparison. They've both got quite a bit in common, as you can see.

  7. Hi Rich. Thanks so much for joining the blogathon with this terrific post, and I'm so sorry for the late comment. I've just returned to blogging after a long hiatus due to the passing of my aunty.
    I never thought about it before, but after reading this I can definitely see the comparisons between "Made For Each Other" and "Penny Serenade". They both have a lot in common. Thanks for pointing it out, and once again I'm sorry for commenting so long after the fact.

    On my return to blogging, I announced a new blogathon, and you are cordially invited to participate. The link is below with more details.

  8. Sorry about your aunt.

    Thanks for responding, even if it's two months later. Honestly, it was a simple coincidence that I even thought of SERENADE, since I had seen it so recently.

    You love making blogathons, don't you? Will let you know if I think of something to write about.


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