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The Affairs of Martha

The Affairs of Martha(1942)

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The serenity of suburban Rock Bay is shattered when a newspaper gossip column reveals that a new book has been written with "a kitchen's eye view" of a local household, and as they read their morning papers, each family fears that their maid is the author. Miranda Sommerfield, daughter of "the nuttiest family in town," is convinced that the culprit is one of their servants, either sweet young maid Martha Lindstrom or cranky cook Mrs. McKissick, but her mother Sophie dismisses the idea. That night, Jeff, the Sommerfields' anthropologist son, returns unexpectedly from the Arctic, accompanied by his new fiancée, Sylvia Norwood, a snooty mathematician. When Martha sees him, she begs McKissick to swap days off and immediately goes to New York. There she sees publisher Joel Archer and tells him not to plant any more gossip about her book. Joel is the only person who knows that Martha and Jeff were secretly married before he left and that Martha has spent the last eighteen months going to night school and writing a book to impress him. After Joel drives Martha home, he sympathetically kisses her goodnight and is seen by Danny O'Brien, a local handyman who likes to flirt with her. A few minutes later, Jeff visits Martha's room and asks her if she got the divorce they agreed upon, and she says she did not because she couldn't get the time off. As she formerly had agreed that their hasty marriage was a mistake, he doesn't understand. Just then Danny comes through Martha's window and asks about the man she just kissed. He and Jeff get in a fistfight and Martha sends them both out. The next morning, Jeff's black-eye puzzles his family, but Sylvia says he doesn't need to explain. When Miranda finds another item in the paper, Jeff suspects Martha. He then bursts into the kitchen and accuses her of blackmail, after which she slaps him, throws down the money he had given her for a divorce and accepts a date with Danny. When Joel calls, she agrees to meet him for dinner and promises to bring the final manuscript, but says that she needs to be back by 9:00. At dinner, Martha drinks too much and resolves to have fun, then misses her date because she loses track of time. When Joel finally takes her home, Danny again sees him kiss her. Inside, Jeff confronts her, but she pretends to pass out before they can talk, and he carries her to her room. Sylvia secretly sees them, as does Danny. In the morning, Danny expresses admiration for Martha's ability to juggle so many men, and when Jeff sees them in the kitchen, she pretends to make another date with Danny. When the determined Sylvia then tells Jeff that she is moving up their wedding date, Martha asks him to meet her later. That night she agrees to go to Reno and admits that she had always had a crush on him and hoped that by educating herself, he might fall in love with her. Now confused, he tells her not to throw herself at men like Danny, and she storms off. Later, his father and Miranda try to talk him out of marrying Sylvia and, after having a cocktail, he agrees, but Sylvia won't listen. At their engagement party, Joel comes to the kitchen to talk with Martha, but when Sophie sees him, she thinks he is a guest and brings him into the party. During dinner Joel finally reveals that he is the publisher of the "dynamite" Rock Bay book, inciting Jeff to lambast the unnamed author. A verbal mêlée ensues which ends when Joel says that the book is a fine one that has been selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club and that Martha is the author. The embarrassed Martha runs out, followed by Joel. Jeff then reveals his marriage and goes after her. With the aid of a motorcycle officer, he catches up to Joel's car and tells her that he loves her, while the officer writes him a ticket.