Happy 2018, fellow classic film fans! I must admit that I’m still heartbroken over yesterday’s news of the passing of classic film star Peggy Cummins, but I’m determined to start the new year off right by discussing one of the most revered pairings to ever grace the silver screen: William Powell and Myrna Loy! Each one of these legendary stars made so many incredible films that it was nearly impossible to choose one off the top of my head, so I ended up consulting one of my favorite DVD boxsets that I own: The TCM Spotlight William Powell and Myrna Loy Collection, which showcases nearly all of the movies that Powell and Loy made outside of the six that brought them together as Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man franchise. To my astonishment, I still hadn’t watched two of the five movies in the set, so of course I found this wonderful blogathon to be the perfect chance to remedy that! Of course all of my gratitude goes to The Flapper Dame and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies, who orchestrated the perfect salute to two amazing actors and who helped ring in what promises to be a fantastic year!
Of the two films in the set that I still hadn’t seen, Double Wedding (1937) caught my attention the most without a doubt. In it, we see Myrna Loy as dress shop owner Margit Agnew, a frigid woman who seeks to control every aspect of sister Irene’s life, including choosing her occupation and her husband. The man chosen by Margit (and apparently by deceased mother before her) to head to the altar opposite Irene (Florence Rice) is none other than guileless yes man and housemate Waldo (John Beal), but little does Margit know that Irene means to take control of her own life. She has ambitions of heading to Hollywood so she can become an actress as well as an infatuation with bohemian and wannabe filmmaker Charlie Lodge (William Powell), a man who lives out of a trailer but has a great deal of initiative (and “yumph”, the adjective used by the characters throughout the picture which essentially means the same thing), which is something that she has searched for in Waldo during their four-year engagement but has yet to find. When Margit learns about Irene’s plans, she goes straight to the source and attempts to appeal to Charlie in order to get him to give up her younger sister, immediately loathing him and believing that he’d never have anything to offer Irene. Charlie, who was never really interested in her as anything but a friend and actress, falls for Margit instead and promises never to see Irene again only if Margit will visit him once a day for three weeks in order to pose for a portrait. She accepts, but will Charlie keep his word? Will Margit change her mind about him, and will Irene’s admiration for him cease?
Double Wedding (1937) was the seventh film that paired William Powell and Myrna Loy, and the picture was hastily put together in order to put Loy back on top after the immense failure of her previous endeavor with Clark Gable, Parnell (1937) (which to this day ranks among the fifty worst films of all time). In my opinion this role in particular does her no favors either as the character is actually rather malevolent in the way that she toys with the lives of others, and Margit doesn’t do very much to redeem herself by the film’s end. In fact, both Powell and Loy later remarked that their performances were lacking when they made Double Wedding (1937), mostly due to the devastating passing of Loy’s dear friend and Powell’s offscreen love during the film’s production, the legendary actress Jean Harlow. The film’s production was actually shut down for a time while the cast and the studio grieved, and while I confess that I wasn’t aware of this fact while I was watching the film, I had actually wondered why both actors seemed to be off their game, and why Powell in particular looked ten years older than usual. Now that I reflect on this, of course it was undoubtedly due to the tremendous amount of grief and stress that rested on his shoulders at the time.
Despite the hardships that affected the cast and crew during the making of this film, I really did enjoy watching it, though I have to admit that many aspects of it led to it becoming intensely predictable. For one thing, the movie’s title gives a great deal away, making me look for the double wedding instead of being pleasantly surprised by it at the end. That combined with the fact that MGM would never put Powell and Loy in a film together without pairing them up essentially spells out exactly how the final scenes play out. I would have to say that my favorite part of Double Wedding (1937) was the scene in which Charlie, Irene, and Waldo are rehearsing Charlie’s screenplay, the plot of which reminded me of the iconic silent film The Sheik (1921) with Rudolph Valentino. I’ve seen more than my fair share of William Powell vehicles, but this was the first time that I ever saw him act like an actor or portray a character involved with Hollywood, and I absolutely adored it! I think that scene in particular was so shocking to me because to me Powell ranks among the most natural actors to ever appear onscreen. It never even crosses my mind when I watch his movies that he’s playing a character, so to see him actually play a character was fascinating. The ending of Double Wedding (1937) was incredible as well, the perfect blend of screwball comedy and intricate slapstick blocking that makes this film not to be missed by any fan of our stars of the new year, William Powell and Myrna Loy!