Come Live With Me (1941): Clarence Brown Serio-Comedy, Starring Jimmy Stewart and Hedy Lamarr

Directed by MGM’s vet craftsman Clarence Brown (who made a lot of films with Garbo), “Come Live with Me” teams the charismatic and talented Jimmy Stewart (who can do anything) with the stunningly beautiful but mediocre actress Hedy Lamarr.

This was Stewart’s first film after George Cukor’s comedy “The Philadelphia Story,” for which he won his only Best Actor Oscar Award, and the last picture he made before going into military service for four years.

Reflecting the historical times, the tale centers on a wealthy Austrian immigrant (played by Lamarr, herself an exile in Hollywood), who is in love with a married American publisher who’s stiff and stuffy. Lamarr must quickly find an American husband, or else she’ll be deported.

While Stewart’s character, a typical country boy, is called Bill Smith, Lamarr’s protagonist is named Johnny, way ahead of the 1980s trend of naming female characters with male names such as Alex (“Fatal Attraction”) or Sam.

Conveniently, Stewart’s Bill is a poor and starving writer, but also an idealistic and charming man, one with penchant for quoting poem, especially in situations of crisis, which baffles Lamarr. At first, Stewart marries Lamarr as an arrangement, “strictly business.” However, predictably, romantic love ensues between the couple, especially after Stewart wins fame by writing a story about his peculiar marriage, too say the least.

What elevates the comedy above the routine, except for the star power, is the film-within-film, with pages of text printed on the screen and Stewart deliberating whether or not to give the story a happy ending.

The film’s last scene is inspired by the “Walls of Jericho” sequence in the 1034 Frank Capra’s Oscar-winning comedy, “It Happened One Night.” Here, Stewart and Lamarra are in separate beds in the same room, partitioned into two. To signify her emotions, after a chat, Lamarr stands on the bed and uses a flashlight on Stewart’s face.  Can any man resist that?

The whole movie is a trifle (a programmer in the studio’s jargon of the time). The lack of real chemistry between Stewart and Lamarr, whose acting styles could not have been more different, is a major shortcoming.

Credits:

Running time: 86 Minutes.

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