Joy of Living


1h 30m 1938
Joy of Living

Brief Synopsis

A Broadway musical star falls for an eccentric millionaire.

Film Details

Also Known As
Joy of Loving
Genre
Comedy
Musical
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
May 6, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

On opening night of her new show, Broadway musical star Maggie Garret is rescued from a horde of autograph seekers by wealthy Boston shipowner Dan Brewster, who adores her "angelic" performances but loathes her parasitic family. Unappreciative of Dan's efforts, Maggie has him arrested for mashing but, in court, reluctantly agrees to serve as his probation officer. Although she is strongly attracted to Dan, his accurate but stinging appraisals of her family, whose spending habits force her into a killing work schedule and near bankruptcy, infuriates her. Determined to win her heart, however, Dan convinces her to spend a "cheap" evening with him at various night spots, including a German beer hall and a skating rink. Drunk and happy, Dan and Maggie return to the Garret home, where Dan's presence causes the family to protest in panic. After Dan accuses Maggie's parents, sister Salina and brother-in-law Bert of being leeches, the ever loyal Maggie throws him out. When she learns that he is about to set sail, however, Maggie catches him at the dock and proposes. Once married, the couple realize that they have different ideas on how to spend their lives together, and Dan, who wants Maggie to leave her family and career, demands an annulment. Despondent, Maggie returns to her family but, after being subjected to their excessive whining about her sudden marriage, finally sees the depth of their selfish dependency. Chasing after Dan in the rain, Maggie gleefully announces that she is ready to sail with him to his South Sea island, "Paradise."

Film Details

Also Known As
Joy of Loving
Genre
Comedy
Musical
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
May 6, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 30m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Articles

Joy of Living


Situated squarely in the screwball comedy category, Joy of Living (1938) stars one of the best actresses of the genre, the inimitable Irene Dunne. Honing her craft in such classics as Theodora Goes Wild (1936) and The Awful Truth (1937), Dunne plays a successful Broadway singer in Joy of Living whose freeloading family is literally draining her of happiness as well as her money. Enter Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., as the raffish young man who teaches her how to have fun again. Lucille Ball stars as Dunne's younger sister, just one of the early acting gigs she got because Ann Sothern had graduated to bigger roles and was no longer a supporting player. Ball recalled, "Ann balked at playing Irene Dunne's kid sister, so I got the part. After that, whenever Ann turned down a script or didn't have time to do something, they gave me the job. But I didn't care. I didn't mind being second choice. I got a whole career out of Ann Sothern's rejects."

Director Tay Garnett, best known for The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), ran into an unexpected problem getting Joy of Living off the ground-starting with the title. In compliance with the Hays Code, basically the precursor to the current film ratings system, Garnett submitted the script for approval with its original title, Joy of Loving. The response? "Those watchdogs in behalf of public morals explained icily that, to avoid corrupting the young, there must be no exploitation of the joy of loving. Loving was conjugal duty, involving a possible nod from the stork. All strictly business, and job be damned. Our title was mandatorily changed to Joy of Living, which is a gas if one accepts that Hays office premise that one may experience the Joy of Living, only if one avoids the joy of loving."

In a 1978 interview with Dunne, she revealed that not only did she never see a finished version of the film, she further mused, "I don't remember anything about that picture . . . I remember that Douglas Fairbanks-funny the things you do remember-that Douglas had been in England and was quite an Anglophile. There was a scene where he wanted to say "fu-tile"-and Tay Garnett said, this is an American picture, and you are going to saw "fewtle" if we have to stay here all day. And we nearly did."

For his part, Fairbanks, Jr., was effusive about his costar: in Romantic Comedy by James Harvey, he declared her "A craftswoman," saying, "'nothing is instinctive' or 'left to chance,' but 'instead of being dull and perfect,' she's 'enchanting and perfect.'" As an up-and-comer, Lucille Ball remembered watching the stars and comparing their styles; "Hepburn 'telegraphed,' she said-'Well, I'm going to be funny'-whereas Dunne always surprised, even in repeated takes of the same scene. 'But I watched her do takes-literally, one day there were thirty-two takes-and twenty-five must have been different. She really worked on how to do that scene. Where Kate would do it the same way every time and telegraph it every time.'"

All those takes, however, must have added up: Garnett's production budget quickly ballooned out of control, topping out at over a million dollars, an astronomical sum for films at that time. Despite the priceless talent, Joy of Living didn't have a chance at recouping its costs and was a financial failure for the studio. Nevertheless, it holds up as one of the more entertaining screwball comedies of its era.

Producer: Tay Garnett, Felix Young
Director: Tay Garnett
Screenplay: Gene Towne, C. Graham Baker, Allan Scott, Dorothy Fields, Herbert Fields
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
Film Editing: Jack Hively
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Music: Jerome Kern
Cast: Irene Dunne (Maggie Garret), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Daniel Brewster), Alice Brady (Minerva Garret), Guy Kibbee (Dennis Garret), Jean Dixon (Harrison), Eric Blore (Potter).
BW-91m.

by Eleanor Quin
Joy Of Living

Joy of Living

Situated squarely in the screwball comedy category, Joy of Living (1938) stars one of the best actresses of the genre, the inimitable Irene Dunne. Honing her craft in such classics as Theodora Goes Wild (1936) and The Awful Truth (1937), Dunne plays a successful Broadway singer in Joy of Living whose freeloading family is literally draining her of happiness as well as her money. Enter Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., as the raffish young man who teaches her how to have fun again. Lucille Ball stars as Dunne's younger sister, just one of the early acting gigs she got because Ann Sothern had graduated to bigger roles and was no longer a supporting player. Ball recalled, "Ann balked at playing Irene Dunne's kid sister, so I got the part. After that, whenever Ann turned down a script or didn't have time to do something, they gave me the job. But I didn't care. I didn't mind being second choice. I got a whole career out of Ann Sothern's rejects." Director Tay Garnett, best known for The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), ran into an unexpected problem getting Joy of Living off the ground-starting with the title. In compliance with the Hays Code, basically the precursor to the current film ratings system, Garnett submitted the script for approval with its original title, Joy of Loving. The response? "Those watchdogs in behalf of public morals explained icily that, to avoid corrupting the young, there must be no exploitation of the joy of loving. Loving was conjugal duty, involving a possible nod from the stork. All strictly business, and job be damned. Our title was mandatorily changed to Joy of Living, which is a gas if one accepts that Hays office premise that one may experience the Joy of Living, only if one avoids the joy of loving." In a 1978 interview with Dunne, she revealed that not only did she never see a finished version of the film, she further mused, "I don't remember anything about that picture . . . I remember that Douglas Fairbanks-funny the things you do remember-that Douglas had been in England and was quite an Anglophile. There was a scene where he wanted to say "fu-tile"-and Tay Garnett said, this is an American picture, and you are going to saw "fewtle" if we have to stay here all day. And we nearly did." For his part, Fairbanks, Jr., was effusive about his costar: in Romantic Comedy by James Harvey, he declared her "A craftswoman," saying, "'nothing is instinctive' or 'left to chance,' but 'instead of being dull and perfect,' she's 'enchanting and perfect.'" As an up-and-comer, Lucille Ball remembered watching the stars and comparing their styles; "Hepburn 'telegraphed,' she said-'Well, I'm going to be funny'-whereas Dunne always surprised, even in repeated takes of the same scene. 'But I watched her do takes-literally, one day there were thirty-two takes-and twenty-five must have been different. She really worked on how to do that scene. Where Kate would do it the same way every time and telegraph it every time.'" All those takes, however, must have added up: Garnett's production budget quickly ballooned out of control, topping out at over a million dollars, an astronomical sum for films at that time. Despite the priceless talent, Joy of Living didn't have a chance at recouping its costs and was a financial failure for the studio. Nevertheless, it holds up as one of the more entertaining screwball comedies of its era. Producer: Tay Garnett, Felix Young Director: Tay Garnett Screenplay: Gene Towne, C. Graham Baker, Allan Scott, Dorothy Fields, Herbert Fields Cinematography: Joseph Walker Film Editing: Jack Hively Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase Music: Jerome Kern Cast: Irene Dunne (Maggie Garret), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Daniel Brewster), Alice Brady (Minerva Garret), Guy Kibbee (Dennis Garret), Jean Dixon (Harrison), Eric Blore (Potter). BW-91m. by Eleanor Quin

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Joy of Loving. According to an October 1937 Hollywood Reporter news item, John Barrymore was "set" for the lead in the production.