Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We Were Dancing (1942)



“I chose my life, and I like it.”

            MGM was known for the fluffy films (“LB. Mayer loves his schmaltz so MGM made the great waltz”). The studio made them forever well into the fifties. One of their most overused plot devices was either a poor guy or a poor girl falling for the rich opposite sex and going through a lot of opposition because of family or friends or whatever the case may be. Sometimes the rich guy or girl is of some royal lineage which makes the plot all the more complicated. We Were Dancing was one of those rare instances in MGM (well to me anyway) where the main characters were both royalty but neither boy nor girl had any money.
            Norma Shearer plays a Polish princess with a long name but simply goes by Vicki. Melvyn Douglas plays an Austrian baron who also has a long name but simply goes by Nikki. They meet at a party one night and fall madly in love as they dance to a waltz (See!! LB Mayer did love his schmaltz and made the great waltz!). Their love could not come at a worse time, the party they are at is for Vicki’s engagement to lawyer named Hubert Tyler! Hubert’s aunt and uncle who are throwing the large party take Vicki and Nikki into separate rooms to try to talk them out of their infatuation with each other. The talks do not work at all they both wind up sneaking away into the night.
            That night they are married. Nikki and Vicki spend the night at this place… or to be more exact his guest bedroom he does not have a place of his own. Vicki notices that the service is not surprised that he is not alone which makes her a little made. Nikki is a professional partygoer. He goes to parties for food and somewhere to sleep. He gets Vicki to join him and she devises that they can go to parties and pretend not to know each other. She points out it will keep their romance fresh and exciting. They go to the party separately. In the train station Vicki runs into Hubert. She lies and tells them that she did not marry Nikki the night she ran away.
            At the party the hostess sees that Vicki and Nikki (ugh those names!!!) are eyeing each other. The hostess tells her that Nikki is a perfect guest and that he is very charming. Also invited to the party was Nikki’s old girlfriend Linda Wayne (Gail Patrick). Linda is all over Nikki making Vicki go nuts with jealousy but there is nothing she can openly do since no one knows they are married. Hubert also shows up he wanted to surprise Vicki since he still loves her. Nikki leaves his wife in her separate room. He tells her he will whistle as he walks to his room so she can follow. Linda is in the room next to her and she wakes up too when Nikki passes. In the morning the party is looking for Vicki and Nikki since they are not up to go hunting. They find the couple in the same room and the cat is out of the bag.
            The next party Nikki and Vikki go to they wind up being guests for a few weeks. After a few days and hearing that they are being kicked out for new guests Vicki has had enough. She wants to get a place of their own. Nikki gets the idea that he will actually get a job. On their way back to the city they stop at a little inn for some food. Of all the people in the world they run into they run into Linda Wayne. A combination of seeing Linda and Nikki going back to being his old self Vicki wants a divorce.
            Vicki gets the divorce and is once again engaged to Hubert. Nikki is upset and is willing to do anything to get her back, even going to far as to ask Linda for a favor. Linda is an interior designer and her competition is working on Vicki and Hubert’s home. Nikki goes under a different name and gets the job. Vicki is furious mostly because she still loves Nikki. At the engagement party Nikki and Vicki are right back at where they started. This time Nikki has a job and they run away to Hollywood where his job is.
            Norma Shearer and Melvyn Douglas were flawless together. Shearer’s acting was wonderful I never enjoyed her more. She was not the giggly annoying girl from her earlier films. She was mature and controlled. Shearer had a great comedic flare. I cracked up every time the princess would get mad she would rant in Polish which Shearer pulled off to perfection. I loved it when Vicki and Nikki are in bed the morning after they are married and she playfully bites on Nikki’s ear. This was Shearer’s second to last film she made in her career. It is a shame to think of what Shearer could have done since her acting (and she) had matured. Douglas was the perfect gentleman. He worked so well with any actress. I am convinced the man was a chemistry machine!
            Gail Patrick always played the other woman. She was gorgeous and should have been the leading lady more often.
            We Were Dancing was so cute and so funny. I truly enjoyed every minute of the film. I was just so happy to see a romantic comedy from MGM from the early 1940s where the characters were not rich royalty but broke royalty having a good time. This schmaltzy waltz by LB Mayer was incredibly enjoyable.