Sunday, November 14, 2010

Made For Each Other (1939)

Made for Each Other was one of the over 500 films made in 1939. Compared to the dozen or so classic films which came out that year this one does not stand out in any grand way. But what Made for Each Other lacks in grandeur is made up by how real and true to life the story is.
            John Mason (James Stewart) works in a law firm where he has done pretty well for himself over the years. He has dreams of making partnership and making money to be comfortable. Judge Doolittle- John’s boss and head of the law firm- sends John to Boston to look up a case file. While in Boston John meets a woman named Jane (Carole Lombard). They quickly fall in love and marry immediately. The first time the audience sees Jane is when John brings her over to meet his mother. John’s mother does not know that the two of them are married. Mrs. Mason likes Jane but she does not approve of John marrying her. As John tries to tell his mother the best he can that he and Jane are married Jane comes right out with and says it. Mrs. Mason has a bit of a dramatic panic attack at this news. As Mrs. Mason goes up to her room, John and Jane agree that she can come live with them.
            Jane and John for their honeymoon decide to go to Europe for two weeks. John has been working on an important case in which he knows a lot about. Before he left he made sure to get a continuum so he would not have to rush back. John and Jane are on the ship with ten minutes left to leave when a man John works with, Conway, comes on board telling John that the case will go ahead next week that the continuum did not work; it’s either the case which could make John’s career and make him a partner or screw things up by going on his honeymoon. The couple stands on the deck waving goodbye with a crowd of people to the leaving ship.

            The couple, along with John’s mother move into a small apartment. They are having Judge Doolittle, his daughter, and Conway over for Thanksgiving. Things are not going smoothly at all: Mrs. Mason is driving the maid out of her mind to the point where she wants to walk out and she’s also driving Jane up a wall telling her what to do. John has been out trying to find a bottle of wine which is does but it is not enough to last the whole evening. Dinner did not over how Jane and John had planned: the maid wanted to leave and needed to be paid so John had to get up and find money for her and Judge Doolittle told John that he was giving the partnership to Conway not him even though he won the case he was working on.
            The next scene is Jane finding out she’s pregnant. She writes John a little letter (she did this at the beginning when John went back to work even though she was married and living with him) in the style of a poem with a baby pin attached to the paper. She goes to the court where John is and when the court lets out for the day she gives John the letter. When John reads the letter he is very excited, they hug each other in happiness.
            A few months later, Jane and John have a baby boy. They get into a taxi at the hospital to go home. Jane stares amazed at the baby and keeps asking over and over again “Isn’t he beautiful?” A mounted police officer comes by to see why the car has not moved yet when he looks through the roof from the window and sees the new parents and their baby. He says he’s sorry for being loud and then yells at the other cars to move along and to be quiet!

At home Jane tries to give baby Johnny a bath and Mrs. Mason is yet again telling Jane what to do. The baby’s clothes are hanging on a string in the bathroom to dry make the room even smaller and crowded then it already is. John keeps asking if he can do anything which makes Jane more frazzled. Jane sends John to get the baby a bottle, when he comes back he tries to feed the baby by making him hold it but obviously newborns cannot hold their bottles so Jane takes over.
            Times are getting harder. Jane encourages John to demand partnership and a raise from his boss. To pep John up Jane asks “Are you a man or a mouse?” to which he answers “A mouse.” He is up all night going over what he will say to Judge Doolittle; Jane sees this as she lays bed and has a proud look on her face. The next day John goes to Doolittle to tell demand his raise but Doolittle tells him some bad news: everyone, including himself, will be taking a 25% pay cut due to hard times. That night John comes home drunk, slamming the front door, turning the lights on waking the baby who unfortunately has to sleep in the dining room, and dropping the milk bottle in the kitchen. Jane doesn’t get mad at him she knows what has happened instead she tells him good morning since it is 3am and asks him if he’s comfortable once he goes to bed because he still has his shoes on. As she takes off his shoes, John starts going into a drunken rant about how he can never get any peace and quiet when he comes home. When he’s done, Jane tells him that she ran into Judge Doolittle and knows he did not get the raise. She calls him a fool and tells him she loves him no matter what that money is not all that matters. She feels bad that she made him go to Judge Doolittle and nothing came of it. He says to her that he’s no good for her and that he has let her down.

            Now the bills are piling up and notices are being sent out to the couple. Stress is getting to the both of them now. Jane sits in a park with their maid Lily. Jane tells Lily that she may have to her let go but Lily says she will stay no matter what. Lily tells a great metaphor: a watermelon is life it’s full and good and the seeds are money and other bad things so they should be spit out. She says “Never let the seeds stop you from enjoying the watermelon” and that she’s got her watermelon but she is choking herself on the seeds.


            On New Year’s Eve John and Jane are waiting for Conway to call so they know where he is having his party. They are all dressed up nicely and ready to go but Conway never calls. Upset, Johnny decides to go out without taking Jane but she runs after him. They go to a restaurant where there is a big party. They talk about their problems when John tells Jane that he wants to end the marriage. Jane is heartbroken; she says Happy New Year sarcastically and leaves. John stays behind and gets sucked into the party at another table. Jane comes rushing back in a panic; the baby is very sick and has been rushed to the hospital.

            Before they had left to go out we see that John’s mother has a cold. She keeps saying she got it from the baby he’s the one who has had a stuffed nose. Jane feels the baby’s forehead she senses something is a bit off but she dismisses it. At the hospital the doctor tells John and Jane that the baby has pneumonia. There is a serum that can save the baby’s life but it is in Utah where there is currently a big snow storm and nobody can get out.
            To get the serum it will coast five thousand dollars. John does not have that kind of money so he goes to Doolittle in the middle of the night. He wakes up his boss begging him to help; he loves his son and does not know what would happen to him if his son dies. Doolittle agrees to help and gives John the five thousand dollars. The pilot of the plane in Utah tells John over the phone that he cannot fly out not in a bad snow storm. John pleads him and asks the man what he would do if one of his kids was sick and there was something that could cure them. The pilot says no but another pilot who is not married says he will bring the serum to New York.
            The pilot has some engine problems in the weather and his plane explodes. He ejects himself and parachutes to safety but hurts his leg in the process. He finds a house nearby where the owners take him in. He asks where he is and they tell him he is 35 miles outside of New York City. The pilot faints in exhaustion and relief. The medicine is given to the baby just in time.
            The last scene of the movie is John in Judge Doolittle’s office with the partners. He has finally been made partner in the law firm and he is being tough with his demands and what he feels should be done with the firm. Jane comes in all excited to say that little Johnny has just said his first word. Everyone looks at him and tries to coax him into saying “dada.” He finally says it and the movie ends.
            Although this is not the greatest of films ever made it drives reality home. Nothing has changed in the 71 years after this film was released; people are still struggling with economic problems and money issues. The message of this film is what everyone needs to be reminded of now again that it is not money that is important it is the love of family and being together that counts. We all want things in life like a nice car, that apartment on Park Ave in NYC, or that perfect job making great money but that does not always happen. Sure not having a lot of money makes life tough but if you have the love of your family and friends and your health that is all that matters in life.
            I relate a lot to this film. My family has always struggled to make ends meet. My mom cleans houses and my dad is a teacher and they support me and my three younger brothers. My parents live pay check to pay check and literally have to budget everything they can’t just get something like a pack of pens from Staples on a whim. They always taught my brothers and I that as long as we are all there for each other and we are happy that money does not matter. I could not have asked for any better lesson in my life.
            In the film, Jane (kind of jokingly) tells John that when he gets his raise that she wants a fur coat and he says to her that he will get her a nicer ring than the one she has. In a scene later in the film she tells him that the ring and the coat and all the small things they want doesn’t matter as long as they have each other.
            Right now I can very much relate to the stress of money problems as I am making my way through college. I have been an undergrad for five years now and need to go off to grad school next year to get the job that I want. I know I will be paying for my college education for the rest of my life but as long as I am happy with my job and my life that is all that matters.
            In the film, John and Jane go through what every couple goes through. They are suffering financially in every way but no matter how much John can doubt that he has let Jane down she still loves him and he still loves her. By the end they get through their troubles and things get better with John’s job.
            James Stewart and Carole Lombard were able to take a not so amazing script and unglamorous story and make it believable and great. I have only seen Carole Lombard in Hitchcock’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith (which I love and will eventually review) where she plays a funny character. At the beginning of the film you can see her screwball side come out but towards the middle and especially the end of the movie she is serious and dramatic. She did an excellent job with the dramatic scenes (even if her acting was a bit over the top at some points) I was very impressed. My favorite scene of the movie is when the baby is in the hospital and a nun takes Jane into the hospital chapel. Jane says that she is not a Catholic but the nun tells her it is alright and leaves Jane to pray. Jane prays to Jesus let the baby live that he means so much to her and John and that they can’t seem to do anything for him but that He can help. Carole Lombard was to me totally amazing in this scene she played it so well.
            I say definitely try to see Made For Each Other. If you look at other reviews online they will say that the movie is not that good and that you’ll only see it if you’re a Carole Lombard or James Stewart completist. I like both actors and will admit I downloaded the movie to see the two of them together but now that I know what the film is about and what a great message of perseverance and love it has see the film mostly for the story and what it has to say.  

“It is an indisputable fact that this mundane, domestic chronicle has more dramatic impact than all the hurricanes, sandstorms and earthquakes manufactured in Hollywood last season. What demands solution is why, when Hollywood can make pictures as sound as Made for Each Other, it practically never does. [Stewart and Lombard’s characters] become two of the most memorable personages who have ever come to life upon a strip of celluloid.”TIME

1 comment:

  1. "Made For Each Other" is a charming little film, which I came across through being a Lombard fan (I have a blog dedicated to her, "Carole & Co.", at The New York Times thought enough of this movie to place it in its top ten of 1939, praise indeed, considering the competition.

    Incidentally, the subplot about the medicine for the sick child, which many deemed a bit over the top and not fitting into the film, was apparently based on a real-life situation involving the Selznick family.

    Lombard and Stewart never worked together again on screen, but did team up a few times on radio -- including an adaptation of "The Moon's Our Home" on "Lux Radio Theatre" where they took the roles that had been done on screen by Margaret Sullavan and Henry Fonda. Each also did a "Lux" adaptation of "Made For Each Other"...but not with each other. Lombard worked with Fred MacMurray in 1940, while in late 1945, Stewart (more than three years after Carole's death) teamed with Marsha Hunt.