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It Had to Be You

It Had to Be You(1947)

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teaser It Had to Be You (1947)

Having just played Dolly Madison in Magnificent Doll (1946), Ginger Rogers next took on the role of a modern-day runaway bride in It Had to Be You (1947), a farcical tale for Columbia Pictures that boasted some prominent behind-the-scenes talent. It's always unusual for a movie to credit two directors, but it's even more so when both are first-time directors who have already found great success in other aspects of filmmaking. In this case, the two were Rudolph Mate and Don Hartman. Mate was a gifted cinematographer with five Oscar® nominations under his belt and a solid future in directing; Hartman was primarily a writer who had earned two Oscar® nominations, one of which was for Road to Morocco (1942). In addition to co-directing this film, Hartman also co-wrote the story and produced it. The screenplay was by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, a top-drawer writing team who would ultimately be nominated for three Oscar®s themselves: for Road to Utopia (1946), Knock on Wood (1954) and The Facts of Life (1960). They also wrote and directed The Court Jester (1955).

All this adds up to a pleasant comedy, even if it's not in the league of the aforementioned classics. Ginger Rogers wrote about It Had to Be You in her autobiography: "[It was] a very amusing script about a girl who backs out of four marriages. In the end she finds the answer to her dreams and the reason for her vacillation. The 'answer' was played by Cornel Wilde, who usually appeared in robust adventure roles. I must say, he marched into the picture as though he had done farce all his life. Spring Byington played my mother..., and I got to act for a few moments with Anna Q. Nilsson.

"Don Hartman even tried to rent the Hope Diamond for me to wear, but he was unsuccessful. I loved the multi-wedding aspect of the film because I could wear four different wedding gowns, all of them designed by Jean Louis. Each gown was prettier than the one before, and I also had a number of stunning suits to wear."

Anna Q. Nilsson, whom Rogers mentioned, plays a tiny uncredited part here as a saleslady, and the reason Rogers was excited to work with her was because Nilsson was one of the first major movie stars of the film industry. Born in Sweden, she emigrated to the U.S. in 1910, became a magazine and poster model, and a year later acted in her first film. She was practically an overnight star. Talkies effectively ended her career, however. Unable to make the transition to sound, she retired from the screen only to return a few years later to play bit parts, often uncredited, for the next two decades. Aside from It Had to Be You, she can be seen in this capacity in such prominent films as They Died with Their Boots On (1941), Cry Havoc (1943), Adam's Rib (1949), An American in Paris (1951) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), her last screen appearance. Her most famous bit part was undoubtedly Sunset Boulevard (1950), in which she played one of the bridge players in Norma Desmond's living room. The others were Buster Keaton and H.B. Warner, the latter of whom had co-starred with Nilsson decades earlier in One Hour Before Dawn (1920) and Sorrell and Son (1927).

Nilsson, therefore, represented Hollywood from almost its earliest beginnings, and any modern performer would have relished the chance to play a scene with her, as Rogers did. Speaking of Hollywood legends, Rogers herself would next star in The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), reuniting with Fred Astaire one last time.

Producer: Don Hartman
Director: Don Hartman, Rudolph Mate
Screenplay: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama; Don Hartman, Allen Boretz (story)
Cinematography: Vincent Farrar, Rudolph Mate
Art Direction: Stephen Goosson, Rudolph Sternad
Music: Heinz Roemheld
Film Editing: Gene Havlick
Cast: Ginger Rogers (Victoria Stafford), Cornel Wilde (George McKesson/Johnny Blaine), Percy Waram (Mr. Horace Stafford), Spring Byington (Mrs. Martha Stafford), Ron Randell (Oliver H.P. Harrington), Thurston Hall (Mr. Ned Harrington), Charles Evans (Dr. Parkinson), William Bevan (Evans, the Butler), Frank Orth (train conductor Brown).

by Jeremy Arnold

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