I Love You Again (1940): One of Bill and Myrna's Finest
When I think of screen couples, the first people that come to mind are Myrna Loy and William Powell. Although they were the epitome of sophistication and class, they were never afraid to be silly, to make funny faces, or to rub elbows with a less-than-chic crowd. Everything about them screams of urbanity and refinement, from their mellifluous voices to their staggering style, yet Loy and Powell were two of the most down-to-earth people you'd ever meet.
The duo's legacy will always be tied into their iconic roles as Nick and Nora Charles, but apart from the six Thin Man films they made, Loy and Powell appeared in seven other great movies together (eight if you count Loy's cameo in The Senator was Indiscreet). My favorite of these non-Thin Man movies is easily the perfect screwball comedy I Love You Again. The script by Charles Lederer, George Oppenheimer, and Harry Kurnitz overflows with wit and charm, and despite the film's plot revolving around such an old device as amnesia, everything still feels fresh and funny. The story for ILYA is credited to Leo Gordon and Maurine Watkins, whose name you might recognize as the author of the 1926 play Chicago. Watkins had quite the career, from journalism to writing plays to writing scripts for films like Libeled Lady (1936) and No Man of Her Own (1932).
Everyone believes that Larry jumped in to save Doc, including Doc. Larry wakes up in his room with Doc by his side, confused and irritated. Right away we notice a change in him as he recalls that the last thing he remembers is being on a train and getting
Their conversation is cut short by the arrival of Mr. Billings from the Habersville National Bank. George had requested $5,000 from the bank as a test and Mr. Billings came to deliver it personally. He also has some distressing news for George: his personal account is now overdrawn, thanks to some land he just purchased, and the other accounts can't be accessed without going through a committee because they are the community chest and the Anti-Vice League's funds.
When they return to their table, though, Kay gets down to business: when can she expect a divorce? George replies that it'll be about 5-6 weeks, an estimation that strikes Kay and Herbert as very suspicious. They accuse him of delaying the proceedings so he can be elected the new president of the Chamber of Commerce, an excuse that George happily grabs on to. Not seeing any way around it, Kay gives in. She and Herbert start heading back to their hotel, with George walking them out. With Herbert's permission, he then gives Kay one final kiss -- and boy, is it a lulu! Probably not the
Soon enough, they all arrive in Habersville. Doc and George become terrified when the train depot is suddenly swamped by the whole town as they give George a hero's welcome. (Remember: everyone still thinks that "Larry" jumped in to save Doc.) He's greeted lovingly by Kay's mother; the mayor gives him the key to the city; he is gifted a shining silver trumpet. When the mayor asks him to lead them in the town's song -- that he wrote -- George thinks fast and fakes a fainting spell, something that Doc claims will happen on and off over the next few weeks. (These guys are so
George is taken home, where Doc gives Mother orders that the patient is to have as many "stimulants" as possible. This leads to a hilarious moment where Mother watches as George pretends to struggle to down a glass of scotch. Speaking of Mother, she makes sure to tell her son-in-law how ridiculous it is that he and Kay have been sleeping in separate rooms for the past year. She is all for their reconciliation, so much so that when Kay refuses to make George a late-night snack, she guilts Kay into doing it anyway. My favorite part of this scene is when we see George in the kitchen
Over scrambled eggs and champagne, George tries to convince his wife that he has changed. "You couldn't change any more than one of your stuffed owls could change," she remarks. "You be careful, madam," George says, "or you'll turn my pretty head with your flattery." Kay's comeback? "I've often wished I could turn your head...on a spit, over a slow fire." Yikes! Kay makes it clear that she is only staying in the same house as him for the optics, but she does seem to be hesitantly warming to him -- until the dope lets it
Having gathered intel around town, Doc comes in and informs George that Larry was (is?) the manager of a pottery factory. The two men sneak over to the place so it'll look like George knows what he's doing at work the next day. Their reconnaissance doesn't go as planned, though, when they accidentally set off an alarm and end up destroying a room full of merchandise while running away. The men race back to the house with the police close on their heels.
Kay, her mother, and the officers all rush into George's bedroom, believing the intruders to be in there. They find George and Doc in the bed, George acting as though he is asleep. Doc lies that "Larry" took a turn for the worse and Doc needed to be by his side. He is finally able to get rid of everyone by confiding to one of the policemen that the ladies need to be removed since "I only sleep in the top of my pajamas!" Frank McHugh is so excellent in this movie, I just love him to pieces.
At work the next day, George learns about another one of Larry's organizations: the Junior Rangers, a Boy Scout-like group that he is the troop leader of. George isn't pleased, but he goes along with it when he realizes that many of the Rangers are the sons of influential men who could be conned into buying George's land. With his embarrassing Ranger uniform on (think shorts and knee-high socks), George goes to the troop's weekly meeting.
He soon regrets it when he discovers that today is the tracking test for one of the Rangers. Wearing metal deer-hoof cleats on his
Upon returning home, Kay confronts her husband about why he isn't more thrilled about their reconciliation. She can tell something is wrong and he is going to try to be noble by giving her up, but she won't hear of it. "Ever since you got off that boat, you've been chasing me like an amorous goat," she says. "You've tried your darnedest to make me fall in love with you and now you have. So from now on, I'm going to do the chasing, and believe me, brother, you're going to know you're being chased." She then plants a goodnight kiss on him, mirroring the surprise smooch he gave her towards the beginning of the film.
Although the con is going smoothly and he has worked quite hard at it, George decides to choose Kay instead. Doc is bummed, but he is willing to back his friend up. While George heads over to Duke's hotel, Doc calls up the grifter to try and soften him up, but it doesn't work. Instead, he turns around to find Kay sitting on the stairs! She heard everything, and now it's time for Doc to spill the whole story.
Meanwhile, at the hotel, Duke is furious with George and refuses to call it off. Kay and Doc arrive to rescue George from Duke's wrath,
It feels like a common denominator in the Loy-Powell pictures is director W.S. "Woody" Van Dyke, when actually, Van Dyke directed them just six times. That's still a lot, but I always felt like it was more than that. Maybe that is because the director was a huge influence on the pair. Not only was he in charge of their first film, Manhattan Melodrama (1934), he also fought for them when he presented MGM with the idea of adapting Dashiell Hammett's novel The Thin Man. Van Dyke shifted the story's focus from the mystery to the indelible Charleses, a very wise decision that made Powell and Loy sensations. Van Dyke would end up directing the first four Thin Man movies as well as I Love You Again, and he continually did a superb job.
I Love You Again is a wonderfully goofy comedy with masterful performances courtesy of Loy, Powell, and Frank McHugh. Every frame of it is simply joyous, and thanks to Myrna and Bill, the film has not just laughs, but also a beating heart.
I'm very happy to say that this is my first entry to the incredible Bill and Myrna New Year's Blogathon. Definitely check out the other tributes to this magnificent team here!