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Three Hearts for Julia

"75 Girls and a Man! The First All-Girl Glamour Orchestra to Reach the Screen!" declared the trailer for Three Hearts for Julia (1943), a wartime comedy about divorce, starring Melvyn Douglas and Ann Sothern. The trailer is a little misleading, as the plot centers around one "girl" and the man who wants her back. Jeff Seabrook (Douglas) is a war correspondent who has been based in Lisbon for two years, and who turns down a position in Berlin so he can return to New York and his wife, Julia (Sothern). When he arrives home in the summer of 1941, he finds that Julia, a violinist in an all-female orchestra, not only wants a divorce, but his help in finding her next husband. Julia thinks that Jeff isn't sophisticated enough for her, so she goes after David Torrance (Lee Bowman), the orchestra's manager, and playboy music critic Philip Barrows (Richard Ainley). Since she considers Jeff her best friend, Julia asks his opinion as to which man she should marry, but Jeff is still in love with his wife and schemes to get her back. Also in the cast were Felix Bressart as a refugee who is dismayed when he learns that the orchestra he is going to conduct is made up of women, Reginald Owen, Marietta Canty, Kay Medford, Elvia Allman, Marta Linden and Marie Windsor.

Directed by Richard Thorpe (replacing Edward Buzzell, who became ill and had to bow out of the project), and with a script by Lionel Houser, based on his original story, Three Hearts for Julia went into production on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot on September 4, 1942 and wrapped a brief five weeks later, on October 17th. Although the plot was completely unrealistic, Thorpe injected one bit of truth into the script, courtesy of bit player Eddie Sanders. Sanders had one line in the film, in which he says "Okay, Miss, I'm joining the navy Monday." Right before they shot, Sanders asked Thorpe if he could change it to "Okay, Miss, I'm joining the army Friday." The Friday after the line was shot, Sanders left Hollywood and joined the army.

The film was held back from release by MGM until 1943, supposedly due to a backlog of titles, but most likely because they knew they had a dud on their hands. From the critics' reaction, it was clear that Three Hearts for Julia wasn't going to be a boost for anyone's career. Variety wrote that Ann Sothern was "handicapped with the material provided," The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther noted with impatience that Melvyn Douglas' role of the husband winning back his wife was becoming repetitive, and Harold Cohen, in his very funny but devastating review for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, wrote that the script "looks and sounds like something [Lionel Houser] cooked up over an opium oven." Cohen deplored the romantic foursome, writing "Mix said quadrangle with some barren comedy, the kind of direction that makes membership in the Screen Directors Guild a questionable honor and a series of performances right out of Stanislavsky, spelled Stanislouseky, and you have Three Hearts for Julia. And this corner doesn't have to tell you what you can do with it."

SOURCES:

http://www.afi.com/members/catalog/DetailView.aspx?s=&Movie=724
Cohen, Harold V. "Three Hearts for Julia at the Stanley" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6 Feb 43
Crowther, Bosley "The Screen: Three Hearts for Julia" The New York Times 21 May 43
The Internet Movie Database
"Stickler for Realism" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 18 Sep 42
http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/139404/Three-Hearts-for-Julia-Original-Trailer-.html
Variety "Three Hearts for Julia" 6 Jan 43

By Lorraine LoBianco

VIEW TCMDb ENTRY

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