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Star of the Month: Merle Oberon
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'Til We Meet Again

'Til We Meet Again

For most of his career, George Brent was a leading man whose function often seemed to be to provide solid - and sometimes stolid - support to such female stars as Bette Davis, Kay Francis, and Greta Garbo. Rarely did he get a chance to shine as brightly as his leading ladies. In the romantic melodrama 'Til We Meet Again (1940), however, Brent and Merle Oberon are true co-stars playing doomed lovers who meet as they're boarding a ship bound from Hong Kong to San Francisco. No wonder the film -- a remake of one of the most fondly remembered romances of the 1930s, One Way Passage (1932), which starred William Powell and Kay Francis as the lovers -- was one of Brent's favorites. Brent plays a criminal who's headed for the electric chair at San Quentin. Oberon is dying of heart disease. The lovers keep their secrets from each other, with the help of the policeman who's transporting Brent's character (Pat O'Brien), and a sympathetic friend (Geraldine Fitzgerald).

The Irish-born Brent's colorful past included an apprenticeship at Dublin's prestigious Abbey Theatre, a stint as a messenger for the Irish Republican Army, and a smuggled escape by ship to Canada with a price on his head. After theater work in Canada and the U.S. and some small roles on Broadway, Brent made his way west, where Warner Bros. signed the tall, dark and handsome Irishman to a contract in 1932. By the end of the 1930s, Brent was one of the studio's most dependable leading men, and in 1939, he had two of his best roles. In Dark Victory, he played the doctor who diagnoses Bette Davis' inoperable brain tumor, falls in love with her, and makes her last days the happiest of her life. On loanout to Fox in The Rains Came, playing a dissolute expatriate who rises to heroism in flood-ravaged India, Brent earned better reviews than the top billed star, Tyrone Power.

Merle Oberon was fresh from a triumph of her own, as Cathy in Samuel Goldwyn's production of Wuthering Heights (1939), directed by William Wyler. Hungarian producer Alexander Korda, who worked in London, had discovered Oberon in the early 1930s, and put her under contract. In 1935, Korda agreed to share Oberon's contract with Goldwyn, and Oberon alternated between making films in England and in Hollywood. In 1939, Oberon returned to Europe and married Korda. Soon after, war broke out, and since she had been unable to reach an agreement on a new contract with Goldwyn, Oberon accepted an offer from Warner Bros. and returned to America. Marlene Dietrich had originally been cast as the dying socialite in 'Til We Meet Again, but when she backed out it became Oberon's first film at Warner Bros.

Oberon and Brent were in good hands with director Edmund Goulding, a British born former stage actor, writer, director and opera singer, who had begun his film career as a writer at MGM in 1925. Goulding was known for his skill with melodrama, and his expert handling of such actresses as Davis, Garbo, Norma Shearer, and Joan Crawford. But he also worked well with actors, as he proved with the all-star casts of Grand Hotel (1932) and, after moving to Warner Bros., The Dawn Patrol (1938). In 'Til We Meet Again, Goulding also had an excellent cast. Irish actress Geraldine Fitzgerald had received critical acclaim for strong performances in her first two American films in 1939: as Isabella in Wuthering Heights, and as Davis' supportive friend in Dark Victory. Pat O'Brien was one of the stalwarts of Warner Bros.' "Irish Mafia," as was Frank McHugh, who reprised his role of an amiable pickpocket from One Way Passage. Binnie Barnes played a fellow con artist.

The critics, a notoriously cynical lot, warned filmgoers that 'Til We Meet Again would manipulate their emotions just as One Way Passage had...and that they'd like being manipulated. "The psychology of the unhappy ending has seldom been used to better advantage than it is by Warner Brothers in [this] sad romanza," wrote B.R. Crisler in the New York Times. Noting that the Times had called One Way Passage "quite satisfactory entertainment," he added that 'Til We Meet Again "may still very well strike many persons as, if not 'quite' satisfactory, at any rate at least as fairly satisfactory entertainment."

Director: Edmund Goulding
Producer: Edmund Goulding (uncredited)
Associate Producer: David Lewis
Screenplay: Warren Duff, Based on a story by Robert Lord
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Editor: Ralph Dawson
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Art Direction: Robert Haas
Music: Heinz Roemheld (uncredited)
Cast: Merle Oberon (Joan Ames), George Brent (Dan Hardesty), Pat O'Brien (Steve Burke), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Bonnie Coburn), Binnie Barnes (Countess de Vaubert), Frank McHugh (Achilles Peddicord), Eric Blore (Sir Harold Landamuir), George Reeves (Jimmy Coburn).
BW-100m. Closed captioning.

by Margarita Landazuri



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