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Fredric March and Loretta Young are the sufferers of "Divorce Remorse" in Columbia Pictures' screwball comedy Bedtime Story (1941), in which he plays a successful playwright and she is his wife, a beautiful actress who appears in his plays. Conflict arises when he refuses to honor her desire to retire from the stage and live the domestic life in Connecticut. When she takes up with a conservative banker (Allyn Joslyn), the subject of divorce rears its ugly head. Assisting along the way to the couple's inevitable reconciliation are such delightful supporting players as Eve Arden and Robert Benchley.
When Bedtime Story opened at Radio City Music Hall, it suffered in the New York press from comparisons to its immediate predecessor at the theater, the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn comedy Woman of the Year (1942). Bosley Crowther, writing in the New York Times, called Young's character "another headstrong dame." But he went on to complain that "This time the lady is neither original nor is she Katharine Hepburn; she is just Loretta Young, flouncing and posing airily..."
Young, who had recently left 20th Century Fox after a dispute with studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, had begun free-lancing and was pleased to have been offered a series of roles at Columbia even though her salary there ($75,000) was half of what she had enjoyed at Fox. However, she was soon at loggerheads with Columbia boss Harry Cohn. Matters came to a head during the filming of Bedtime Story when Young offered to shop for a dress to wear in one scene because the designer Irene had run short of time in designing her costumes.
Young paid $100 for the dress, but the studio was charged $700 -- a price that included alterations and changes in design by Irene. According to Young biographers Joe Morella and Edward Z. Epstein, a furious Cohn refused to listen to Young's explanation and told her, "Nobody's gonna cheat me and get away with it. I'm taking away your top billing, and you're not gonna wear that dress in the picture either. You'll wear what I tell you to wear!" In retaliation, Young was deliberately late for fittings for the replacement costume, so that the wardrobe staff had to be paid overtime.
Cohn did give Fredric March top billing in print ads for the film. Although Young was contracted for one more film at Columbia, the executive and the actress were no longer on speaking terms. The studio did, however, launch an extensive advertising campaign for Bedtime Story that included Young's image in ads for Lux Soap. She repeated her role from the film on Lux Radio Theatre with Don Ameche in March's role.
Producer: B.P. Schulberg
Director: Alexander Hall
Screenplay: Richard Flournoy, from story by Horace Jackson and Grant Garrett
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
Art Direction: Lionel Banks
Original Music: Werner R. Heymann
Editing: Viola Lawrence
Costume Design: Irene (uncredited)
Cast: Fredric March (Lucius "Luke" Drake), Loretta Young (Jane Drake), Robert Benchley (Eddie Turner), Allyn Joslyn (William Dudley), Eve Arden (Virginia Cole), Helen Westley (Emma Harper), Joyce Compton (Beulah).
by Roger Fristoe