“You see there's so many little things about her that nobody would understand her the way Julie and I do. We love her”
I once found a quote about music that is so perfect: "With the right music, you either forget everything or you remember everything." Some songs I hear and I think back to when I was growing up and I would sit in my room over the weekends when I used to obsessively cut things out of magazines of my favorite singers and bands and organize them. Some I think back to fun times with my friends. If I am listening to Kelly Clarkson I think of all the great times I have seen her in concert or to the night she won American Idol. Other songs I think of sad times I went through when I was feeling depressed and going through rough things with work and school. Just like movies there is always a song to match your moods and periods of your life.
In the 1941 film Penny Serenade music takes one of the main characters back to both sad and happy times in her life.
Julie (Irene Dunne) comes home. She is agitated and asks her friend Applejack to pick up trains tickets and cash a check for her. She can no longer live with her husband Roger (Cary Grant) there is nothing between them anymore. While she is packing Julie looks to the record player. On top of the player are records in a book and within the book with the records are memories of moments in her life with Roger.
The first song brings her back to the day she and Roger met. Julie had been working in a record shop. A record had started skipping and Roger, walking outside past the shop heard the skipping record. Through the window he sees Julie. He walks in and begins talking to the girl behind the counter trying to get her to go away so he can be alone with Julie. Roger finally manages to walk over to Julie. He asks for a specific record and when she walks away he grabs a whole bunch of records. Soon enough they are walking back to her apartment. Roger asks her if she has a player since he does not. Julie asks him why he would have bought twenty-seven records if he did not have a player. She figures out why and invites him up.
Julie and Roger head down to the beach together for the day. They have fortune cookies reading their fortunes aloud to each other. One of them was something about children but Julie hides it. Another one that Roger gets was something about marriage. A little boy comes over trying to play with Roger and he tells the kid to go away.
Roger is a reporter for a newspaper. The paper sends him out to Japan. He is excited about going at first but he sees Julie is upset. They decide to get married. In Japan he finds a nice house for them to live in along with a helper who has three little children. Thinking back to the day at the beach when Roger told a little boy to go away, Julie is worried about telling Roger she is having a baby. She has her fortune from her cookie in a locket. She takes it out and shows Roger. He is beyond excited. He tells her he chose a helper with three small children for a reason. Their happiness is unfortunately short lived. A powerful earthquake comes along and Julie is hurt. The couple goes back home to America devastated.
In the present Julie changes the record to a lullaby.
In time Roger starts his own newspaper in a small town which is moderately successful. Applejack comes to help Roger out as newspaper manager. One night Roger is out late and it is just Julie and Applejack at dinner. Applejack brings up that the apartment is lonely that there should be a kid around and mentions about adopting. Julie has thought about it but she is not sure Roger would ever want to have a child that was not his own. Applejack says that Roger has brought up the idea of adoption before and thinks it would be a good idea. When Roger comes home Julie tells him what Applejack told her and both of them are very happy.
They go out to an adoption agency in the city. A Mrs. Oliver looks over their case. They want a two year old boy with blue eyes and curly hair. Mrs. Oliver tells the couple other couples want a baby just like that. It could take them over a year to get a baby not just one that they want. Defeated Roger and Julie head home. Mrs. Oliver has kept the couple in mind. She calls them telling them that there is a five week old baby girl that has come in. Another couple had been promised first choice but she wants Roger and Julie to come down. Roger is not happy about their baby being a girl while Julie is beyond thrilled and wants to take the baby home. Mrs. Oliver lets them have the baby girl on a yearlong probation. Their first night with the baby is comical. Julie and Roger are very nervous with the baby watching her sleep, trying to make too much noise to wake her up, and following directions the orphanage gave them. Julie almost has a meltdown the following day while trying to give the baby a bath until Applejack, whose sister has four kids, come in and takes over.
A year passes. Mrs. Oliver comes to interview Julie and Roger again before they are to formally adopt their daughter who they have named Trina. The paper has failed and Roger at the time does not have an income. That would have been the nail in the coffin for anyone else. Roger brings Trina into the city to go before a judge. The judge deems that Roger and Julie cannot have the baby because they have no income. Roger makes a passionate speech about how much he and Julie love Trina and how he would do anything just to make money for Trina to stay with them. That night Roger arrives back home with Trina in his arms.
In the present Julie changes the record to a birthday song.
Years have passed and Trina is a little school girl. It is Julie’s birthday. Roger had Applejack make a turkey. When Julie comes home father, daughter, and friend had hoped to surprise Julie. They hide from her but she finds them around the corner of the kitchen and pretends to be happily surprised. The birthday party goes over very well everyone is happy. Trina tells her parents that she will be an angel in the school play but she is an angel who is an echo she will be carrying the moon and singing an echo. She hopes the following year she will be an angel and be able to be seen. Julie and Roger are very proud of their daughter even if she was not seen and she did trip and knock down a little bit of the scenery.
In the present Julie changes the record for the last time.
A few days ago Julie had sent a letter to Mrs. Oliver telling her about happier times. Three weeks before, after a brief and sudden illness Trina died. Roger and Julie now have nothing to live for and have nothing in common. They both feel like they have no love left inside of them. Before Julie started packing to leave a lady and her son had come by the apartment. The mother needed to use a phone to call for a ride since her car broke down. Her son needs to get to the Christmas play. Roger and Julie give the mother and son a ride to the same play that Trina had been in the year before.
Roger comes back just as Julie was about to leave. The phone rings. Mrs. Oliver is on the other side. She tells Julie a little boy matching their letter from when they were first looking into adopting has come in. Again she tells Julie that another couple were supposed to have first choice but she feels the baby is special and wants them to see him. Julie tells Mrs. Oliver not to let the other couple come they will be there as soon as possible. Roger and Julie are happy again.
Cary Grant and Irene Dunne were amazing together. I am used to seeing them in their comedies where they were silly together it was actually great seeing them in a drama. Both of them were such amazing actors in their own right and together they just lit up the screen. Dunne, for some reason, I could not get over her face. She looked absolutely gorgeous. She was forty-three years old when she made this film and she does not look a day over thirty. Grant just blew me away when Roger had to give his speech in front of the judge. I never saw him cry or be really dramatic before in a film. He was brilliant. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne are one of my favorite screen pairings of all time all their films are fantastic.
George Stevens did a great job with his direction. He really captured every emotion and every feeling of his characters especially in the scene where it was the first night the baby home and Julia and Roger are so nervous.
Penny Serenade is a beautiful film. Even thought the story is melodramatic is was fantastic. I love the idea of how music can bring back such a flood of memories both good and bad. It let Julie remember how good her life was even through the sad moments. Music should be considered a powerful emotion! I cannot understand how this film is not more well known and celebrated. If you love film, Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, and do not mind a soapy melodramatic story absolutely watch Penny Serenade.