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They All Kissed the Bride

They All Kissed the Bride(1942)


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teaser They All Kissed the Bride (1942)

Joan Crawford took a rare stab at screwball comedy in They All Kissed the Bride, a 1942 variation on The Taming of the Shrew that has grown in popularity through the years. The tale of a stern businesswoman (Crawford) tamed by a crusading journalist (Melvyn Douglas) may have gotten lost in the shuffle when it first came out, but with continuing interest in the screwball genre and Crawford's career, it has become a special favorite for many.

The film had never actually been planned for Crawford. It was meant as Carole Lombard's follow-up vehicle after To Be or Not to Be (1941). When she died tragically in a 1942 plane crash on her way back from a bond-selling tour, Louis B. Mayer at MGM agreed to let Crawford take her place on loan to Columbia, where producer Edward Kaufman put P.J. Wolfson to work re-writing the script to fit her. The loan was a rare occurrence for Mayer. He rarely lent out stars of Crawford's stature, not wanting other studios to profit from MGM's star-making machine, arguably the best in the business. Moreover, the loan would mean teaming Crawford with Melvyn Douglas, with whom she had appeared in one of her biggest flops, The Shining Hour (1938), and whose liberal politics Mayer despised.

Despite the circumstances, however, Crawford had to be excited about the chance to try something different. Having been less than pleased with recent assignments at MGM, where she had to fight for her best pictures, she knew that Mayer's mismanagement of her career was costing her at the box office. Moreover, with the plum roles at MGM going first to Norma Shearer and now to Greer Garson, she needed a hit to re-kindle her fading popularity. Of course, like all of Hollywood, she had been terribly shaken by the highly popular Lombard's death. In her honor, she agreed to donate her salary for They All Kissed the Bride to charity. When her agent demanded his commission nonetheless, she paid it, then fired him.

One big bonus Crawford got out of They All Kissed the Bride was the chance to work with Irene, one of Hollywood's and the fashion world's top designers, who had helped popularize turbans with her work on Algiers (1938) and put Marlene Dietrich in Navy whites in Seven Sinners (1940). Her chic designs would showcase the star at her most glamorously feminine. In fact, she would follow Crawford back to MGM for her next film, Reunion in France (1942), and stay with the studio through her departure from Hollywood in 1950. (She returned briefly to work on two Doris Day films in the early sixties before committing suicide in 1962).

For Crawford, the film pointed to one of her biggest future successes. Although she had enjoyed a run of rags-to-riches stores depicting her as a typical working woman, she had never played a driven career woman like M.J. Drew in this film, a part that would have seemed more suited to Rosalind Russell. Of course, she would score one of her biggest hits as the head of a restaurant chain in Mildred Pierce (1945), the film that would finally bring her an Oscar® for Best Actress. And she would return to career woman roles as a congresswoman in Goodbye, My Fancy (1951), a playwright in Sudden Fear (1952) and a publishing executive in The Best of Everything (1959).

They All Kissed the Bride was also very much a product of its time. In these days of celebrity rehab and interventions as weekly series, the use of alcohol and drugs as a convenient excuse for putting the romantic leads in compromising situations seems a relic from earlier times. At least one remnant of the film's earlier era is usually cut for contemporary audiences. During its initial release, the picture's biggest laugh came when, disgusted with Douglas' poking around in her affairs, Crawford snaps, "When I want a sneak, I'll hire the best and get a Jap." In the months after the Pearl Harbor attack, audiences were primed for any insult leveled against the enemy. Today, however, the line is deemed offensive and usually cut from television airings.

They All Kissed the Bride received positive reviews, with Variety suggesting the risqu but still tasteful jokes would help the film catch audience interest. That wasn't enough to stem Crawford's downward slide at the box office, particularly with the lackluster films Mayer had waiting for her on her return to MGM. It would take years of television airings, revival screenings and availability on home video to help Crawford's fans discover one of the forgotten gems of her career.

Producer: Edward Kaufman
Director: Alexander Hall
Screenplay: Andrew Solt, P.J. Wolfson, Henry Altimus
Based on a story by Solt and Gina Kaus
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
Art Direction: Lionel Banks, Cary Odell
Music: Warner R. Heymann
Cast: Joan Crawford (Margaret J. 'M.J.' Drew), Melvyn Douglas (Michael Holmes), Roland Young (Marsh), Billie Burke (Mrs. Drew), Allen Jenkins (Johnny Johnson), Helen Parrish (Vivian Drew), Mary Treen (Susie Johnson), Nydia Westman (Lewis - M.J.'s Secretary), Ann Doran (Helene - the Drews' Maid). Charles Lane (Spotter), Larry Parks (Joe Krim).

by Frank Miller

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