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Day-Time Wife

05 Aug

Day-Time Wife – Directed by Gregory Ratoff. Romantic Comedy. The wife of a two-timing husband takes a job as the secretary of her husband’s client. 72 minutes Black and White 1939.

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The difference between a silly movie and a stupid movie is the stupid movie takes the audience to be stupid. Such is the case here. At once one senses there are two things wrong. The script is unswallowable; that remains constant as far as the female characters go. The second is the question: isn’t Linda Darnell somehow far too inexperienced to be playing the sophisticated wife of a highly successful New York skyscraper contractor?  Research reveals that at the time she is 16 years old! The man she hires herself out to, however, is a merry and impenitent philander, played to the hilt by that crafty actor Warren William. He is absolutely marvelous, and if you parse out the lines he has to give, you appreciate what a nervy talent he had. He’s worth the price of admission and an example for young supporting actors of how to invest yourself in a role. Investment alone is funny. The scenes between him and Darnell are better written, and Darnell actually performs them with admirable artistic confidence. Here her looks are not quite formed up; there’s that lantern jaw; they don’t have her hairline right yet; her mouth has the wrong makeup. But she will develop as an actress beautifully with time, although by the time she peaks with Forever Amber she looks older than she is, which is only 24. Alcoholism has performed its task well, poor thing. Here, you can’t blame her, for oh the situations she is thrust into! – Zanuck was supposed to have had a better story sense. In its day, the reason to see it was to watch the beauteous and gifted Tyrone Power. As an actor he is never wrong. Almost never, for here his honesty sometimes fails him. Anyhow, aged 25 he is a huge star, and it’s justified by all his gifts, his fine voice, his ability to move naturally and swiftly, his looks, his grasp of situation, his refusal to milk a scene, his dedication to the other actors in it. Power was the best super-star actor in the world at that time. Perhaps only Clark Gable was so willing to look foolish in a movie. William Powell in the great fishing scene, yes, but Powell always returns to his habitual aplomb. Powell and Gable always are changed. Watch him. No one was more willing. It’s a treat to see this in him.

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