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A universal law of the romantic comedy is that the greater the differences between man and woman, the stronger the attraction that will eventually form between them. While this may not always apply to real life, it holds true to the formulaic screwball comedies of the 1930s and '40s.
Elliott Nugent's And So They Were Married (1936) begins with the mismatched lovers jockeying for control of a snow-covered road. Stephen Blake (Melvyn Douglas) is a widower and Edith Farnham (Mary Astor) is a divorcee, traveling with her daughter Brenda (Edith Fellows). Both cars are headed to the Snowcrest Lodge and, shortly after they arrive, a snowslide blocks the way for any other guests to follow.
For the mousy hotel manager (Donald Meek), this means disaster, "25 waiters, 4 chefs, a 10-piece jazz band and two guests!"
Isolated in the snowy paradise, Stephen and Edith feud at the front desk, on a slope, and in the dining room (hurling paper streamers and dinner rolls while the band plays to the near-empty hall). Eventually, the warring guests decide to call a truce and spend some time together, as a means of avoiding the lodge's overeager social directors, Mr. Snirley (Romaine Callender) and Miss Peabody (Dorothy Stickney). Thereupon the ice begins to thaw and romance appears to bloom.
Once the roads are cleared, Stephen is joined by his ten-year-old son Tommy (Jackie Moran), who promptly engages in fisticuffs with Brenda after she catches him spitting BB's at her snowlady. When the kids realize that their parents are attracted, they take extreme measures to drive the would-be stepparents apart. Screwball antics ensue, the most memorable being when Tommy's dog, foaming at the mouth, disrupts a swank dinner party.
By the time the scamps succeed in alienating their parents' mutual affection, they grow remorseful, having accidentally become friends. As the winter holiday draws to a close, Brenda and Tommy realize that they will have to resort to equally desperate measures to drive their parents back into each other's arms.
In spite of the ever-turning wheels of fate, there is little question about whether or not the mismatched guests will eventually find romance. As The New York Times quipped in its review, "And So They Were Married gives away nearly all the story it has to offer in one titular burst of generosity." But seldom is the outcome of a screwball romance difficult to predict. The pleasure comes from watching the serpentine journey to that happy fade-to-black union. The Times failed to appreciate And So They Were Married's simple formulaic pleasures, dismissing it as "an undistinguished but passably entertaining film."
Produced under the title Bless Their Hearts, the screenplay was based on a story by Sarah Addington. Best known for a series of playful children's books, such as The Pied Piper in Pudding Lane and Tommy Tingle Tangle, Addington was also considered a "Modern." She crusaded for women's suffrage, earned a degree at Columbia University's Pulitzer School of Journalism (where she was the only woman of her class), and worked her way up the ladder at a series of newspaper jobs. After marrying financier Howard Carl Reid, she retained her maiden name and continued to write. According to her obituary, "Although illness early crippled her ability to assume responsibility outside her library, she was always an ardent supporter if not an active participant in numerous liberal movements and literary groups." For health reasons, she spent many of her final months in Mexico, where she became "an authority on the movements there for political and social reorganization." Addington died in New York City on November 7, 1940.
Multi-talented director Elliott Nugent hailed from a vaudeville family, co-writing and co-starring in several plays with his father, J.C. Nugent. Moving West, he became a Hollywood actor (So This Is College ), screenwriter (The Unholy Three ) and director (The Mouthpiece ). After And So They Were Married, Nugent specialized as a director of vehicles for legendary comedians, including Bob Hope (My Favorite Brunette ), Bing Crosby (Just for You ), Mickey Rooney (My Outlaw Brother ), and Harold Lloyd (Professor Beware ).
Director: Elliott Nugent
Producer: B.P. Schulberg
Screenplay: Doris Anderson, Joseph Anthony and A. Laurie Brazee
Based on a story by Sarah Addington
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Music: Howard Jackson
Cast: Melvyn Douglas (Stephen Blake), Mary Astor (Edith Farnham), Edith Fellows (Brenda Farnham), Jackie Moran (Tommy Blake), Donald Meek (Hotel Manager), Dorothy Stickney (Miss Peabody), Romaine Callender (Ralph Snirley), Douglas Scott (Horace).
by Bret Wood