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Star of the Month: Merle Oberon
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,Affectionately Yours

Affectionately Yours

Rita Hayworth was well on the road to stardom in early 1941 when she made the romantic comedy Affectionately Yours, while on loan-out to Warner Bros. The plot dealt mainly with international correspondent Dennis Morgan's attempts to win back ex-wife Merle Oberon. At first, he merely wants back the safety net his marriage gave him from his numerous romantic interests, whom he had previously staved off with the reminder that he was a married man. But as the pursuit continues, particularly when Oberon picks up a bumbling suitor (Ralph Bellamy), he realizes that he really loves her. Hayworth's third-billed role as the other woman who comes closest to snaring Morgan gave her the opportunity to look beautiful while sparing her the type of unflattering slapstick routines which Oberon had to endure.

The problems with Affectionately Yours were twofold. First, it was a comedy personally chosen by studio head Jack Warner. A wannabe comedian, Warner would have been a leading contender in any contest to name the most comically challenged executive in Hollywood. He had the bright idea to cast the patrician Oberon, who had starred effectively for him in the tearjerker 'Til We Meet Again (1940), as a screwball comedy star, and the match simply didn't work. No matter how willingly Oberon threw herself into pratfalls, it simply wasn't her kind of humor.

The second problem was one of creative control. After three years at Warner Bros., the last two as a producer, newsman-turned-filmmaker Mark Hellinger was chomping at the bit to prove himself. In particular, he resented Hal Wallis, the studio production head, who refused to grant him either authority or respect. The situation came to a head when Lloyd Bacon, the director of Affectionately Yours, asked Hellinger to approve an extra scene in Wallis' absence. Unable to consult the boss, Hellinger gave the scene the okay, which triggered an explosion from Wallis. When the production head informed Bacon and the other directors on Hellinger's films that their producer should be thought of as just a messenger, Hellinger quit during the final weeks of production. He wouldn't return to Warner Bros. until Wallis left his production chief position to become an independent producer.

None of this really touched Hayworth. The former dancer had signed with Columbia Pictures in 1937, where she had been steadily working her way up from B-pictures and supporting roles. Affectionately Yours was her second loan-out in a row to Warner Bros. The first, The Strawberry Blonde (1941), opened while the second was in production, and her performance as a beauty whose loss haunts small-town dentist James Cagney the rest of his life scored a big hit, finally putting her on the road to stardom. Affectionately Yours wasn't exactly a huge career boost for Hayworth, though it was hardly a hindrance when she got better reviews than the film's two stars. Within weeks of Affectionately Yours's premiere, however, she scored her second blockbuster, as a sultry Spanish temptress involved with bullfighter Tyrone Power in Blood and Sand (1941).

Hayworth wasn't the only performer to fare well with reviewers. They were also impressed with Butterfly McQueen's comic performance as a bumbling maid. Some even noticed that Affectionately Yours marked her reunion with Gone With the Wind co-star Hattie McDaniel. In addition, the film features three future Warner Bros. stars nestled in bit parts: Faye Emerson as a nurse, Alexis Smith as a bridesmaid and Smith's future husband, Craig Stevens, as a guard.

Producer: Mark Hellinger
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Screenplay: Edward Kaufman
Based on a story by Fanya Foss and Aleen Leslie Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Art Direction: Anton Grot
Music: Heinz Roemheld
Principal Cast: Merle Oberon (Sue Mayberry), Dennis Morgan (Richard "Ricky" Mayberry), Rita Hayworth (Irene Malcolm), Ralph Bellamy (Owen Wright), George Tobias (Pasha), James Gleason (Chester Phillips), Hattie McDaniel (Cynthia), Jerome Cowan (Cullen), Butterfly McQueen (Butterfly).
BW-89m. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller



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