Consolation Marriage is a film I would like to see remade today because I think the plot would not really shock modern audiences… I do not know how to gauge the audiences’ reactions today but I know it would be something different and maybe odd for them to see. Pre-Code films explored relationships in such a way that not even films today do. Consolation Marriage is just one of a handful of pre-codes that gives a little twist and a lot of thought to relationships.
Mary Brown (Irene Dunne) and Steve Porter (Pat O’Brien) have just been jilted by their childhood sweethearts Aubrey and Elaine (Myrna Loy). Elaine and Aubrey are getting married to people with money who can further them either socially or career wise.
Mary and Steve meet at a restaurant the day they each lost their sweethearts. He sees that she is lonely sitting at the table all by herself so he goes over to her. They have a great time together and get back to her place early in the morning.
Sometime later they decide to marry. Mary puts it best when she says they are substitutes for their lost loves. Down the road things get a little complicated when they have a daughter.
Eventually Aubrey comes back into Mary’s life and Elaine to Steve’s life. Elaine almost runs away with Aubrey leaving the baby with Steve but she realizes at that moment that she could not live without her daughter and that she really does love Steve. That same night Steve brings Elaine over to meet Mary. There is no hostility between the women but Mary begins to feel uncomfortable since she just realized her true love for her husband. As Steve and Elaine sit outside together he too has a realization that he loves his wife.
In the end Steve and Mary decide to stay together (as if that was not a surprise).
This film, according to the poster, was Irene Dunne’s first starring vehicle. I never have an issue with her acting the woman really was flawless. You can see what goes through her mind just by her facial expressions and her body language. Myrna Loy is not the film for very long since she is the lost love but her few scenes were alright. She does not say too much in her autobiography about making the film which I do not blame her. Loy is blonde first of all which makes her look awful and second, Louis B. Mayer wanted her to be a dramatic actress since he saw her that way outside of her vamp roles. So, definitely do not expect the “perfect wife” anywhere near this film. I believe this is the first time I have ever seen Pat O’Brien in a film. I did not care for him at all. He reminded me a stupid love sick boy, almost like Eric Linden in the two or three films I have seen him in. All I kept thinking was that this guy is supposed to be one of the best actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age? (or so I have heard).
Consolation Marriage is interesting to watch just to see the liberal views on marriage at a time when most people today think were virtuous. No one is supposed to be bad or think liberally except for gangsters and morally corrupt people. As I said at the beginning of this review it would be so interesting to see this film remade today because the concept would baffle some people. Mary and Steve are in an open relationship something that today is even frowned upon.
Consolation Marriage is an interesting pre-Code. Irene Dunne is the only to give a good performance in this melodrama. Give the film a try if you can find it.