That Uncertain Feeling (1941): Screwball Comedy of (Re)Marriage from Lubitsch

The great Ernst Lubitsch directed this screwball comedy, starring Merle Oberon, Melvyn Douglas, and Burgess Meredith, one of his few commercial flops.

The screenplay by Walter Reisch and Donald Ogden Stewart was based on the 1880 French play Divorçons by Victorien Sardou and Émile de Najac, which was filmed as a silent movie before.

At the suggestion of her friend, Jill Baker (Merle Oberon) visits psychoanalyst Dr. Vengard (Alan Mowbray) for her hiccups, which appear when she gets nervous or irritated. He proposes that she looks into her previously happy marriage to her business executive husband Larry (Melvyn Douglas).

In Vengard’s waiting room, Jill meets an odd pianist, Alexander Sebastian (Burgess Meredith), who considers himself the best in the world when playing for a single listener, but has trouble performing for a large audience.

She invites him to a dinner for Larry’s prospective insurance buyers. When Larry realizes that Jill is infatuated with Sebastian, he gives her a friendly divorce, in which Larry is represented by lawyer Jones (Harry Davenport) whose secretary is Sally Aikens (Eve Arden).

Jill gets engaged to Sebastian, but after she learns that Larry is seeing an attractive woman, she realizes she still loves her ex-husband. When she tries to reconcile with him, he pretends that Sally Aikens, Jones’ secretary, is in the other room. His deception is revealed when Sally enters the apartment while he is in the next room breaking a dinner date, supposedly with the distraught Sally.

In the end, Jill and Larry get back together, and the hiccups vanish forever.

Cast

Merle Oberon as Jill Baker

Melvyn Douglas as Larry Baker

Burgess Meredith as Alexander Sebastian

Alan Mowbray as Dr. Vengard

Olive Blakeney as Margie Stallings, Jill’s friend

Harry Davenport as Jones, Larry’s lawyer

Sig Ruman as Mr. Kafka, Larry’s prospective client

Eve Arden as Sally Aikens

Richard Carle as The Butler

Oscar Nominations:

Werner R. Heymann was nominated for Best Music Scoring.