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In her 1966 autobiography, Ecstacy and Me, Hedy Lamarr gave credit to Clarence Brown for the box-office success of Come Live With Me (1941), a romantic comedy in which she plays a refugee who marries a would-be writer (James Stewart) to avoid deportation - only, of course, to fall in love. Lamarr wrote that producer-director Brown "got as much mileage as possible out of the settings (by Cedric Gibbons), the score (by Herbert Stothart), the costumes (by Adrian), and the photography (by George Folsey)." Stewart biographer Donald Dewey wrote that, "MGM's most romantic director also elicited a performance from Lamarr that (at least temporarily) stymied critics who were convinced that she was inept as an actress." Brown handled the Vienna-born actress so effectively, in fact, that Come Live With Me increased her bargaining power with MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer and emboldened her to ask for a role in Ziegfeld Girl (1941), which became one of her best-remembered vehicles at that studio.
Stewart had previously worked under Brown's guidance in The Gorgeous Hussy (1936), Wife vs. Secretary (1936) and Of Human Hearts (1938). Decades later, the actor looked back on his early work with Brown as "a wonderful beginning and groundwork for me. He showed me the importance of a look, the importance of a movement - a visual saying of a line. I learned from watching Clarence, and I watched him all day long."
One of Stewart's favorite anecdotes concerned a brief bit he performed under Brown's direction in Come Live With Me. On location for the Western The Far Country in Canada 1954, he had an "old guy" come up as he was having lunch and tell him he remembered a "picture show" in which the actor said a poem about fireflies. The man couldn't recall the film's title, but Stewart was impressed that, 13 years later, he remembered that fleeting moment. Stewart said, "That's the thing, that's the great thing about movies. If you're good and God helps you and you're lucky enough to have a personality that comes across, you're giving people little, little tiny pieces of time - pieces of time that they never forget." Author Gary Fishgall was so struck by this quote that he titled his 1997 biography Pieces of Time: The Life of James Stewart.
Producer/Director: Clarence Brown
Screenplay: Patterson McNutt, from story by Virginia Van Upp
Production Design: Cedric Gibbons, Randall Duell
Cinematography: George Folsey
Costume Design: Adrian
Editing: Frank E. Hull
Original Music: Herbert Stothart
Principal Cast: James Stewart (Bill Smith), Hedy Lamarr (Johanna Janns, aka Johnny Jones), Ian Hunter (Barton Kendrick), Verree Teasdale (Diana Kendrick), Donald Meek (Joe Darsie), Barton MacLane (Barney Grogan).
BW-87m. Closed captioning
by Roger Fristoe