An actress not often associated with comedy (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane doesn’t count), Bette Davis allowed her dry wit to come into contact with a few rom-coms throughout her career, none of which succeed as much as June Bride. Attempting to make herself comfortable in a role she’s not quite suited for, Davis works as a comedic foil for June Bride’s true star, Robert Montgomery. With great character actors and a sweetly unpretentious plot borrowing from other films in the genre, June Bride is a tasty topper on the romantic comedy wedding cake.
Out of work foreign correspondent Carey Jackson (Montgomery) is offered a job at Home Life magazine working under the supervision of Linda Gilman (Davis). Jackson is reticent since he and Linda have history; the two were supposed to get married, but didn’t. Desperate, Carey and Linda travel to Indiana to visit the Brinker’s, whose daughter Jeanne (Barbara Bates) is the title’s “June bride.” As Carey and Linda cover the wedding in their own ways the Brinker’s own personal problems threaten to complicate the story…and the wedding itself.
Big city characters traveling to the country/heartland, a country mouse/city mouse plotline if you will, has been done in several classic films like Remember the Night (1940) and Christmas in Connecticut (1945). Both of those films star Barbara Stanwyck, who could have worn the character of Linda Gilman like a second skin. Davis isn’t a poor choice, just unrepresentative of the type of character required. It’s apparent she was cast for her staunch, no-nonsense personality that she’d perfected in her dramatic work, and Linda Gilman is written as a woman content with her career and uninterested in waiting around for Carey….which only makes her decision to do just that at the end suspect. You never expect Davis to capitulate at all, let alone for someone like Montgomery.
It is actually Montgomery, though, who walks away with the bride, so to speak. Carey Jackson borrows from another famous Cary we know and love, Grant, that is. Several zingers in Ranald MacDougall’s script would sound perfect with that mid-Atlantic Grant accent, but Montgomery works just fine. Carey Jackson is a man in love with his own success. When the secretary compliments his writing, he responds in kind; “I read everything you write.” “So do I.” Montgomery’s effortless charm and minor ego bond the audience despite knowing he’s a total rascal. In fact, he has to be manipulated like a child into taking the job at Home Life with the old “you wouldn’t be interested” routine. Thankfully, Carey doesn’t take the bait; “You offering me a job or proposing to me?”
Were this a higher level feature you’d expect the aforementioned Grant or Fred Astaire as Carey, so Montgomery remains unpredictable to hilarious effect. Carey’s attempt to bond with the father of the bride leads to an alcohol-infused reverie to the tune of “Little Brown Jug.” His formulaic relationship with Linda plays on the power shift – She’s his boss? Scandalous! – as well as their past failed relationship. When her name is first spoken, forlorn music plays, indicating Linda as the “one who got away.” Linda relishes in being Carey’s boss, but emphasizes that she’s done well without him; she isn’t waited around pining for him.
The script doesn’t play up the romance as much as you’d assume. There are very few scenes of overt romanticism between the leads. Maybe it’s because the Brinkers are more engaging than our dueling writers. Like those other movies in the genre, the return to the heartland shows both the pleasures and pratfalls of the “simple folk.” The Brinkers aren’t Ma and Pa Kettle, but their issues revolve around finding love, not career. Jeanne and her younger sister, Barbara, aka “Boo” (Betty Lynn) find themselves in a love quadrangle of sorts. Barbara loves her groom’s older brother while Boo loves the groom! It’s shocking this wasn’t built up into a film of its own.
Reminiscent of Diana Lynn’s wise beyond her years characters in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) and The Major and the Minor (1942), Betty Lynn’s (no relation) “Boo” knows what she wants compared to her conservative older sister. “Why didn’t you ask him,” Boo asks Linda when the reporter reveals Carey never asked her to marry him. Boo knows what she wants, which makes her relationship path a bit easier to swallow, certainly more so than Linda’s.
Despite the presence of a questionable ending, June Bride has enough fun for a wedding of its own.
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