Monday, August 13, 2012

To Mary- With Love (1936)



“Everybody says the movies should be more like life- I think life should be more like the movies.”

            Unless you are a fan of Myrna Loy I am sure you have never heard of To Mary- With Love. Unfortunately is a classic film that is largely forgotten and is very hard to find. There are no user reviews on IMDB that is how hard this film is to see. I am very fortunate to have found someone who found the film somewhere and led me to it. As with any film that I have been looking for I fear that it will be terrible or that I will have hyped it up too much and it will not be up to my expectations. I was very pleased that To Mary- With Love was a good film with a good story and a great cast I was not let down at all.
            Bill Hallam is sitting in his office. He has asked his secretary to order a bouquet of flowers and he will write out the card. Bill writes “To Mary” and then flashes back to ten years to 1925 when he was the best man at the wedding of his two best friends Jack (Warner Baxter) and Mary (Myrna Loy). Bill is upset because he has loved Mary for so long and he is not the one marrying her.
            When Mary and Jack come back from their honeymoon around Europe Bill and his girl Kitty (Claire Trevor) are there waiting for them. Jack has liquor in his coat pocket he got in Europe. He gets close to Kitty to sneak it in her coat and kisses her for show. Kitty liked being kissed by him.  A while later they all go to a boxing match. All Jack can think of is what he could turn the land the match is taking place on is worth and what he could build on it. Mary and Bill are not interested in his talk but Kitty says she is. On the train ride home Mary and Jack get into an argument. She wants to go to Maine for the weekend which had been planned but Jack wants to stay in New York to work. All he does is work and all he does is think of money. Upset Mary has Kitty switch seats with her so she can sit with Bill. As they switch Kitty hands Mary her compact mirror.

            Bill goes with Mary to Maine to help her out with a party while Jack stays in the city to work. They are all happy to see each other. Mary goes into her and talks to her husband and friend as she fixes herself up. She stops talking midsentence and walks out with Kitty’s compact in her hand. Bill walks out he wants nothing to do with the situation. Mary locks herself in their room as Jack tries walks out onto the balcony in the pouring rain to the doors there. He finally manages to get back in the apartment and grabs his wife and will not let her go. She does not believe him that Kitty was just there at the apartment and nothing more happened and brings up the point that if he had done anything wrong he would have hid the compact not left it out in the open.

            Sometime later Bill and Mary come into Jack’s new office. He has become a successful architect with his own large office and secretary. Jack and Mary tell Bill they are going to have a baby. When he hears the news his face falls and he cannot seem to be truly happy for them. A few months later, Bill has gone away just when the baby is to arrive. Mary is nervous and tells Jack that she wants him to be the one to tell her if the baby is a healthy boy or girl. Things do not go smoothly and Mary is in the operating room for a long time making Jack nervous. Mary is brought out but Jack cannot see her for a while. Bill calls to ask how everything is but Jack heavy handedly puts down the phone. When he is finally allowed to see his wife he has to tell her their baby son has died. She says she never even got to the baby or what the color of his eyes. Jack cannot take it and yells at her to stop and she just turns her head away. Mary is in the hospital for six weeks she tells Bill that Jack has just buried himself in work and does not come to see her.

            When Mary comes out of the hospital she goes to Bermuda by herself for a few weeks. She comes back and she is no longer the woman Bill recognizes. Mary constantly has people over even some she has no idea how they got in or if they came with someone. She tells Bill she has not seen Jack in three days they are at this point living in the same house but do not see or speak to each other anymore. Both of them are trying to escape from the trauma of losing their baby.  Jack comes into the room all disheveled and collapses. The stock market has crashed and Jack has lost all the money he worked so hard for and has also lost his job.
            Jack and Mary are now living out in suburbs. Jack is depressed that he cannot find a job. Mary has been offered a job by her friend Irene who runs a candy shop. Jack will not let his wife work he thinks her place is in the home. Mary has enough and accepts Irene’s offer. He takes a job as a clerk at a department store but is let go since the store will not need all the extra help over the Christmas holiday. Mary, Bill, and Irene wait for Jack all night but he does not show instead of going home he just goes out and gets drunk. He sees Kitty for the first time in a long time and he goes out drinking with her. Bill stays with Mary during the night. He confesses to her that he loves her and would anything for her. She tells him she loves him but does not like him like she loves Jack. The doorbell rings, Mary thinks it is Jack so she has Bill open the door. Instead of Bill at the door it is a taxi driver saying that he had hit the cab Jack was in and Jack is now in the hospital pretty banged up but alright. Bill and Mary go to the hospital. When they come out of Jack’s room a nurse takes them to see Kitty. Mary, angry and hurt, walks away in a hurry.

            Months later Jack gets a letter from his old architecture firm asking him to come back to finish work on the casino he was building. Mary is upset that he will be going back to being obsessed with money and not seeing her all the time. She goes to Bill who is a lawyer to draw up divorce papers she says she stood by her husband when he needed her and no they have nothing in common. Bill’s secretary tells him that Jack wants to see him and he tells Mary to wait in another room. Jack is a wreck he got Mary’s note and cannot believe she wants to leave him. He says they have so much in common. Bill brings Mary out, he has his friends sit down and he goes over some of the events of the past ten years. Outside the office Mary and Bill hug each other and decide to stay together.

            Back in the present, Bill finishes his card simply writing “With Love.”
            Myrna Loy wrote in her autobiography that this film was a welcome dramatic change from all the breezy characters she had been playing at MGM (she was loaned out to 20th Century to make this. Loy had great range as an actress and it is a very nice welcome change to the light characters MGM constantly had her playing since her success in The Thin Man. She was so moving in the scene at the hospital where she just quietly turns her head away from Warner Baxter after she hears the news their baby died. Years later Loy met up with the producer of the film and he told her “You didn’t become hysterical. All you did was turn your face away from him. You turned your face to the wall and it was devastating.” And let me tell you because she turned her head the scene did become devastating. This whole scene could have been played so overdramatic had it been any other actress but Loy was not in the habit of over acting. She replied to the producer “I just felt that was what I should do. I didn’t want him to see what was going on” and she goes on to say “Oh I could have cried all over the place in many of my films, but it just didn’t feel right” and she was smart for never doing so. In the fifty films I have seen of Myrna Loy’s I think there were maybe three times she ever over acted a scene and she does so in this one when Jack tries to explain Kitty’s compact. The over acting does not fit her at all and when she does it is humorous.
            Warner Baxter seriously does not get enough credit. He was such a good actor. You feel so bad for him when all Jack wants is money and when he falls hard and that is all due to Baxter’s acting. I love his chemistry with Myrna Loy all their films together they just work so well.
            Claire Trevor in her few scenes as Kitty was very good. I have only ever seen her as Dallas in Stagecoach and she was alright. You can see more of her range here and I liked her. I barely even recognized her at first she was so different.
            To Mary- With Love is a good drama with a good story that did not get out of hand and I feel that is due to the cast not overplaying their characters. Hopefully someday To Mary- With Love will be released on DVD, it deserves to be.