To start, I’ve pretty much decided that all the opening credits on this box set are the same. They may have a different background image, but they’re the same font and style! Now that that’s settled, on to tonight’s Marilyn film. An aside, I’m sad that not at lot of people seemed to enjoy my It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World review, at least not as many who are reading My Month With Marilyn. I’m interested to hear any suggestions on what I should do after I finish Marilyn Month…move on to a different actor/actress/genre/director? Or are individual reviews of classic film enough? Should I do more recap with commentary? Any suggestions are welcome via the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Back to this evening’s review!
So tonight’s movie is the 1952 film We’re Not Married. While not as bad or grating as Love Nest, it’s just as sickeningly sweet and contrived. It also holds a few similarities to Let’s Make It Legal in that Marilyn plays another beauty queen character and the film discusses marriage, although where LMIL discussed divorce, this one discusses never being married in the first place!
The movie is a comedy of errors focusing on five couples who discover they were improperly wed. The justice of the peace (Victor Moore) was not legally allowed to perform weddings and has to tell the couples their marriages are invalid. Hilarity ensues when we discover each couple has problems that would allow them to walk away from the marriage scot-free. Since this has five separate stories I’ll devote a paragraph/review of each couple.
The first couple we meet are Ramona and Steve Gladwyn (Ginger Rogers, Fred Allen). Ginger Rogers would team up with Monroe later, in a movie we’ll be doing in a few days called Monkey Business. Anyway, the two are successful radio show hosts whose show is sold on the fact that they’re happily in love when in fact they can’t stand each other. They’re also the couple that open the film as we see their wedding and how in love they are, and the fact they can make more money as a married couple with a show. Rogers is great although not nearly as hilarious in Monkey Business. Ramona and Steve’s fights are the best because it is pure vitriol from the two culminating with Steve actually saying he wishes Ramona was dead. If this was any other type of movie she probably would be dead, but it’s hilarious in just the right way. When they learn they’re not legally married they both laugh and seem to have no problem with it before going right into their show. The radio show is the best as it showcases a stage romance, one used only for publicity, that we can see in our modern-day Hollywood. The two call each other pet names and have a daughter (really a grown woman who works for them imitating a child) while they shill products that make for a happy home. Even their bird and the coffee they drink are sound effects. This has to be a snide comment on how fake relationships are in Hollywood and is so apparent today, but it also shows the effect radio had on people. Listeners come up to Ramona and Steve saying their lives have been changed, yet it’s all based on a lie! I honestly wished they were the couple we spent more time with.
Couple number two are Jeff and Annabel Norris (David Wayne, Marilyn). Jeff is stuck as a stay-at-home dad raising a baby boy while Annabel goes from city to city trying to be Mrs. Mississippi. This is obviously the emasculated male story, another attribute of WWII. Jeff makes comments that Annabel goes all over town while he stays at home and “darns socks,” he even wears an apron. The character of Annabel is perfect for Monroe and almost caricatures her celebrity as she enters into competitions filled with men who ogle her in a bathing suit. Her sleazy manager even says that she’ll make money from personal appearances in nightclubs, not the most respectable place for a wife and mother. When they get the letter they’re happy, although planning to stay together. It allows Annabel to enter into the Miss. Mississippi pageant which has more money, while Jeff….just goes on doing what he’s doing only being happy?
Our third couple is Hector and Katie Woodruff (Paul Douglas and Eve Arden). Hey Paul Douglas was in yesterday’s Marilyn film Clash by Night, playing another husband with a complicated wife! Small world Hollywood! Anyway, the two are having problems with a life of monotony and the fact that Hector was once a notorious womanizer. When he finds the letter saying their marriage is invalid he has an insane dream sequence about lining up a new girl every night of the week. Hate to tell you sir but you’re not the first choice of many of those ladies, I’m sure. I digress, their storyline really doesn’t go anywhere as he hides the letter while Katie is none the wiser.
The next couple is Frederick Melrose and Eve Melrose (Louis Calhern and Zsa Zsa Gabor). Frederick is extremely wealthy in the oil business while Eve is a gold digger planning on divorcing him for everything he’s worth. As Eve is structuring their settlement Frederick gets the letter and let’s her know at the eleventh hour. She feigns some totally cheesy fainting sound effects and we’re led to believe their the only couple that won’t be reconciling.
The last couple is Willie and Patsy Reynolds (Eddie Bracken and Mitzi Gaynor). Willie is shipped off to war just as Patsy tells him she’s pregnant. Willie is terrified their invalid marriage will result in the child being a bastard and races to get remarried to Patsy before being discovered by his commanding officer.
From the reviews it’s apparent how much time is devoted to each story, the brunt is given to the Gladwyns and their’s is by far the most interesting. Rogers and Allen have fantastic chemistry. Marilyn is utterly sweet as Annabel, she’s not mean to Jeff by choice, she just likes being in pageants yet there’s never any mention of the fact she spends no time with her child. There’s no maternal instinct between her and the baby yet that’s never used against her. It doesn’t help that their storyline just ends. In fact most of the storylines just come to a close before the tacked on ending showing everyone getting remarried (except the Melroses’ of course). The Woodruffs’ was the roughest one to watch as it just seemed like it was squeezed in. We see everything from Hector’s perspective and get nothing from poor Katie, who’s probably forced to watch her husband indulge in other women. Hector himself seems so prepared to go off and bang whoever he meets, yet at the end we’re forced to believe…he’s over it? The Reynolds’ storyline is the cutest. Mitzi Gaynor is beautiful and they get the best lines. When Patsy yells to a departing Willie “the doctor says we are,” Willie doesn’t know what she’s saying. One of the guys repeats it and Willie says “we are what?” Another guy responds, “what do you think it means” and Willie just yells “No!” Considering the couple’s so young and we hear their fathers came looking for them, it’s a funny line.
The biggest problem is the bookends. We meet Justice of the Peace Melvin Bush (Victor Moore) and his wife (Jane Darwell), we know they screwed up, and the only other thing we hear is the constant return to them reading off names and seguing into a new story. I understand the film is made up of vignettes but it just feels like they didn’t know what to do with these characters.
We’re Not Married is a sweet anthology film with a slew of stars. I equate it to big ensemble films like New Years Eve, Valentine’s Day, Love Actually (I’m trying not to vomit right now). It’s not the best, but it’s cute with some good performances (in comparison to the lack of all of that in the three aforementioned movies above).
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.