H. M. Pulham, Esq. (1941): King Vidor’s Melodrama, Starring Hedy Lamarr and Robert Young

TCM showed it on September 28, 2020.

King Vidor directed H. M. Pulham, Esq., a melodrama, starring Hedy Lamarr, Robert Young, and Ruth Hussey, about a middle-aged businessman who lives a conventional life, but still remembers fondly the beautiful woman who had once brought him out of his shell.

Vidor co-wrote the screenplay with his then wife, Elizabeth Hill Vidor, based on John P. Marquand’s novel, which was serialized as “Gone Tomorrow” in McCall’s magazine (September 1940-January 1941) and sold over 200,000 copies within the first months of publication.

H. M. Pulham, Esq.
H M Pulham Esq poster.jpg

Theatrical Film Poster

Harry Moulton Pulham Jr. (Robert Young), a conservative, middle-aged Boston businessman, is set in a routine life, engaged with his wife Kay (Ruth Hussey) in a comfortable if passionless relationship.

Tasked with organizing a twenty-five-year college reunion, he flashbacks to his past. At the end of World War I, his Harvard classmate and friend Bill King (Van Heflin) gets him a job in a New York advertising company, where he falls in love with thr vivacious coworker Marvin Miles (Hedy Lamarr).

As she cannot fit into his traditional idea of a wife’s role and he cannot imagine living anywhere other than Boston, they break off their relationship.

Harry then falls in love with and marries a woman from his own social set, who’s also approved of by his father (Charles Coburn) and mother (Fay Holden).

Dissatisfied with his dull routine, he begs his wife to go away with him to rekindle their love, but she dismisses the idea as impractical and silly.

Harry then arranges to meet Marvin after all those years. Tempted to have an affair with her, he finds out that she, too, is married, and thus neither can recapture their past.

In the end, it’s Harry’s wife who persuades him to go away with him.


Hedy Lamarr as Marvin Myles Ransome
Robert Young as Harry Moulton Pulham
Ruth Hussey as Cordelia ‘Kay’ Motford Pulham
Charles Coburn as John Pulham
Van Heflin as Bill King
Fay Holden as Mrs. John Pulham
Bonita Granville as Mary Pulham
Douglas Wood as Mr. ‘J. T.’ Bullard
Charles Halton as Walter Kaufman
Leif Erickson as Rodney ‘Bo-Jo’ Brown
Phil Brown as Joe Bingham
David Clyde as Hugh, the butler
Sara Haden as Miss Rollo, Harry’s secretary


Produced, directed by King Vidor
Screenplay by King Vidor and Elizabeth Hill Vidor, based on H. M. Pulham, Esq. 1941 novel by John P. Marquand
Music by Bronislau Kaper
Cinematography Ray June
Edited by Harold Kress
Distributed by MGM

Release date: December 18, 1941

Running time: 120 minutes