Again I ask, "What the heck was in the Hollywood water of 1938 that made actors, writers and directors achieve maximum creativity while making films for release in 1939? The number of truly good movies released in 1939 was so plentiful that it's still a legendary year in Hollywood history. Back then, there were 10 nominees for Best Picture. There could have been 20. That's how good a year it was. Even the "B" movies had "A" qualities about them. I found an overlooked gem from 1939. It's a romantic comedy from Paramount Pictures that stars Fred MacMurray. He was a handsome, under-rated actor who made Hollywood acting look easy. His "A" qualities are on display here.
Freddy Mac is one of those Hollywood veterans who worked for decades in the movies but never got an Oscar nomination. His versatility seemed to be subliminal. He could go from screwball comedies to being a cold-blooded killer -- most famously in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944). He did war movies like The Caine Mutiny (1954), musical comedies (he had a fine singing voice that was put to good use in Sing You Sinners (1938) with Bing Crosby and the 1945 WWII time-travel satire Where Do We Go From Here?), he could be a corporate heel and cheating husband in Billy Wilder's The Apartment (Oscar winner, 1960 Best Picture) and then be the lovable, befuddled Disney lead/family man in comedies like The Shaggy Dog (1959), The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and Son of Flubber (1963). He was a top TV dad on the long-running hit sitcom, My Three Sons (1960-1972). From two heartless, horny characters in Billy Wilder classics to a sweet single parent in a classic sitcom -- not bad.
I found MY LOVE FOR YOURS (1939) on YouTube late last weekend night when I couldn't sleep. I figured I'd watch about 10 or 20 minutes then go to bed. I stayed up and watched the whole thing. In fact, I watched it again before the weekend was over. The movie was that charming, bright and well-played. I know it's an old movie. However, as a film reviewer, I've had to endure new romantic comedies from Katharine Heigl, Kate Hudson and Jennifer Aniston. Sitting through them was, indeed, work. It's not good sign when you're in a movie theater and, while the movie is playing, you wish you could press a fast-forward button to get to the end quicker. This vintage valentine is a winner.
There's a "meet-cute." She's, Gail, an executive at a swanky Manhattan department store called Morrissey's. He's Bill, a sharp and smart big city bachelor who lives most of the year in Bali. He's crazy about the place. They meet on a boat. Indoors. In a store. Gail's determined to stay an independent career woman. She says, "I'm not a feminist, but the expression 'It's a man's world' always irritates me." She's not in the mood for love, she thinks. Gail also says "...love muddles you up...It throws you." Bill likes being a free spirit. And he's a kind man. He's a bachelor with a kid. His best friend is a widower, a single parent, a war vet and terminally ill. Bill has committed to caring for his little girl. Gail may have a fancy office and a top job but she's never lost a working class sensibility. She treats the window washer with the same respect she'd give to a fellow executive. We like Gail. We like Bill. They have substance. They're not just two privileged and pretty people who fall in love as if love is the birthright of the gorgeous.
That first scene with Fred MacMurray also works. The way they toss the light romantic comedy dialogue back and forth, with such wit and flair, makes you say "THAT'S the way it supposed to be done!" in comparison to some rom-coms made today.
What also makes My Love For Yours a real treat is Carolyn Lee as Rosie. She didn't become a famous child star like Shirley Temple or Margaret O'Brien. Yet she could steal a film and steal your heart. She's an unaffected, regular, polite little girl. And adorable. The three are terrific together. You want them to become a family.
Trust me. This is a fun movie. If you're a classic film fan, look for it online. I predict you'll be entertained. My Love For Yours also known as Honeymoon in Bali should be delivered from public domain limbo. Comedy is hard work. Fred MacMurray made it all look so easy -- for such a long time.