Made for Each Other


1h 25m 1939
Made for Each Other

Brief Synopsis

A couple struggle to find happiness after a whirlwind courtship.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
Feb 10, 1939
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 17 Feb 1939
Production Company
Selznick International Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

Young New York attorney John Mason marries Jane after a brief courtship, incurring the displeasure of his boss, Judge Doolittle, who had hoped that John would marry his daughter Eunice. John's mother, Mrs. Mason, also disapproves of the match, for she had wanted her son to marry the boss's daughter. After their honeymoon is preempted by a court case, the newlyweds move into their new apartment and invite John's overly critical mother to live with them. Although voted the most likely to succeed in his law class, John soon finds his promise dimming as he is unfairly passed over for a partnership in Doolittle's law firm. When baby John is born, financial pressure builds, and Jane pushes for her husband to ask for a raise, but before he can make his plea, the judge bulldozes him into accepting a twenty-five percent pay cut. As bills mount, Jane is forced to look for work and let their maid Lily go, causing more strain between her and her mother-in-law over domestic chores. Tensions in the Mason household increase, causing an estrangement between John and Jane. On New Year's Eve, the Masons reach their nadir. While Jane and John attend a party at a night club, they decide to separate. When Jane sadly calls home to talk to her mother-in-law about the baby, who has had a slight cold, she learns that the child has fallen critically ill. When they take the baby to the hospital, they are told that the baby has almost no chance to live if it does not receive a special serum. Because local suppplies are low, the only place where the doctors can locate the serum is in Salt Lake City, which is snowed in by a blizzard. Desperate, John turns to Judge Doolittle who is touched by John's plight and offers the five thousand dollars demanded by the pilot, Conway, to deliver the medicine. As news of the mercy flight reaches the radio and newspapers, thousands of people await the arrival of the serum. The storm is so severe that Conway has to parachute out of his plane before it crashes. Though his leg is broken, Conway makes it to a farm house and the serum is transported to New York just in time to save the baby. Some time later, John is made partner and John, Jr. delights Judge Doolittle and the other partners with his first word.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
Feb 10, 1939
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 17 Feb 1939
Production Company
Selznick International Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
10 reels

Articles

Made for Each Other


After a string of hugely popular and successful comedies, Carole Lombard was eager in 1938 to find a pure drama. She found one, Made for Each Other (1939), at Selznick studios, where it was no coincidence that independent producer David O. Selznick was simultaneously preparing his upcoming blockbuster Gone With the Wind (1939); Lombard seriously coveted the role of Scarlett O'Hara, and was eager to show off her dramatic acting chops.

Directed by John Cromwell from a script by Jo Swerling, Made for Each Other is a simple story of a young, newlywed couple struggling with money, baby, and in-law problems. For the part of Lombard's husband, Selznick borrowed James Stewart from MGM. Selznick believed Stewart had just the right amount of screen presence to complement Lombard but not overwhelm her. (In fact, Selznick feared that Lombard might overwhelm Stewart on screen, if anything.)

The two stars got along well. Stewart later called Lombard "the only girl I've ever known who could let out a stream of four-letter words and not embarrass you. In fact, I'd have to say it was ladylike the way she did it." For her part, Lombard said that Stewart's "talent is perfection itself." Director Cromwell praised Lombard as "just a joy" to work with, "a wonderful gal," and soon directed her again in In Name Only (1939), another drama.

Author Marc Eliot has written that for a scene in which Stewart had to cry, the actor resorted to an old trick after Cromwell was unable to talk him into generating real tears: "Stewart took a break, slipped outside the studio, lit a cigarette and... held it close to his face, to allow the smoke to burn his eyes."

David Selznick was so busy with Gone With the Wind at this time that he left Cromwell largely unsupervised. But a preview screening went badly, and Selznick briefly turned his attention to re-editing the film and expanding a climactic sequence in which emergency serum must be flown through a raging blizzard to New York City in order to save a baby's life. Cromwell fought with Selznick over this sequence, but Selznick prevailed, explaining that it was actually quite realistic since a similar scenario had unfolded when Selznick's brother Myron needed special medicine flown quickly to Los Angeles. (It arrived without a moment to spare.)

In his advertising campaign for the film, Selznick played up the "new" Carole Lombard: "CAROLE CRIES! It's a David O. Selznick stroke of showmanship to make Lombard go dramatic!"

The picture opened in early 1939 to excellent reviews. Trade paper Variety called it "an exquisitely played, deeply moving comedy-drama... A happy combination of young love, sharp clean-cut humor and tearjerker." Frank Nugent of The New York Times deemed it "thoroughly delightful, richly human, comic, sentimental and poignant by turns... The story of almost every young couple that ever was or will be." And Time magazine declared, "This mundane, domestic chronicle has more dramatic impact than all the hurricanes, sandstorms and earthquakes manufactured in Hollywood last season." The film also made The New York Times' Ten-Best list at the end of the year, a significant achievement for Hollywood's golden year of 1939.

Despite the good press, however, Made for Each Other was a box-office dud. And while Lombard may not have gotten the part of Scarlett O'Hara, she did win Gone With the Wind's leading man: she married Clark Gable soon after Made for Each Other's release. They were still married when Lombard perished in a 1942 plane crash, at age 33.

Director: John Cromwell
Screenplay: Jo Swerling (screenplay); Rose Franken (suggested by a story by); Frank Ryan (contributor: humorous situations, uncredited)
Cinematography: Leon Shamroy
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler
Music: Oscar Levant
Film Editing: James E. Newcom
Cast: Carole Lombard (Jane Mason), James Stewart (John Horace Mason), Charles Coburn (Judge Joseph M. Doolittle), Lucille Watson (Mrs. Harriet Mason), Eddie Quillan (Conway), Alma Kruger (Sister Madeline), Harry Davenport (Dr. Healy), Esther Dale (First Cook), Louise Beavers (Third Cook), Ward Bond (Jim Hatton), Milburn Stone (Newark Official).
BW-91m.

By Jeremy Arnold

Sources:
Donald Dewey, James Stewart
Marc Eliot, Jimmy Stewart: A Biography
Wes D. Gehring, Carole Lombard
Leonard Maltin, Carole Lombard
Made For Each Other

Made for Each Other

After a string of hugely popular and successful comedies, Carole Lombard was eager in 1938 to find a pure drama. She found one, Made for Each Other (1939), at Selznick studios, where it was no coincidence that independent producer David O. Selznick was simultaneously preparing his upcoming blockbuster Gone With the Wind (1939); Lombard seriously coveted the role of Scarlett O'Hara, and was eager to show off her dramatic acting chops. Directed by John Cromwell from a script by Jo Swerling, Made for Each Other is a simple story of a young, newlywed couple struggling with money, baby, and in-law problems. For the part of Lombard's husband, Selznick borrowed James Stewart from MGM. Selznick believed Stewart had just the right amount of screen presence to complement Lombard but not overwhelm her. (In fact, Selznick feared that Lombard might overwhelm Stewart on screen, if anything.) The two stars got along well. Stewart later called Lombard "the only girl I've ever known who could let out a stream of four-letter words and not embarrass you. In fact, I'd have to say it was ladylike the way she did it." For her part, Lombard said that Stewart's "talent is perfection itself." Director Cromwell praised Lombard as "just a joy" to work with, "a wonderful gal," and soon directed her again in In Name Only (1939), another drama. Author Marc Eliot has written that for a scene in which Stewart had to cry, the actor resorted to an old trick after Cromwell was unable to talk him into generating real tears: "Stewart took a break, slipped outside the studio, lit a cigarette and... held it close to his face, to allow the smoke to burn his eyes." David Selznick was so busy with Gone With the Wind at this time that he left Cromwell largely unsupervised. But a preview screening went badly, and Selznick briefly turned his attention to re-editing the film and expanding a climactic sequence in which emergency serum must be flown through a raging blizzard to New York City in order to save a baby's life. Cromwell fought with Selznick over this sequence, but Selznick prevailed, explaining that it was actually quite realistic since a similar scenario had unfolded when Selznick's brother Myron needed special medicine flown quickly to Los Angeles. (It arrived without a moment to spare.) In his advertising campaign for the film, Selznick played up the "new" Carole Lombard: "CAROLE CRIES! It's a David O. Selznick stroke of showmanship to make Lombard go dramatic!" The picture opened in early 1939 to excellent reviews. Trade paper Variety called it "an exquisitely played, deeply moving comedy-drama... A happy combination of young love, sharp clean-cut humor and tearjerker." Frank Nugent of The New York Times deemed it "thoroughly delightful, richly human, comic, sentimental and poignant by turns... The story of almost every young couple that ever was or will be." And Time magazine declared, "This mundane, domestic chronicle has more dramatic impact than all the hurricanes, sandstorms and earthquakes manufactured in Hollywood last season." The film also made The New York Times' Ten-Best list at the end of the year, a significant achievement for Hollywood's golden year of 1939. Despite the good press, however, Made for Each Other was a box-office dud. And while Lombard may not have gotten the part of Scarlett O'Hara, she did win Gone With the Wind's leading man: she married Clark Gable soon after Made for Each Other's release. They were still married when Lombard perished in a 1942 plane crash, at age 33. Director: John Cromwell Screenplay: Jo Swerling (screenplay); Rose Franken (suggested by a story by); Frank Ryan (contributor: humorous situations, uncredited) Cinematography: Leon Shamroy Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler Music: Oscar Levant Film Editing: James E. Newcom Cast: Carole Lombard (Jane Mason), James Stewart (John Horace Mason), Charles Coburn (Judge Joseph M. Doolittle), Lucille Watson (Mrs. Harriet Mason), Eddie Quillan (Conway), Alma Kruger (Sister Madeline), Harry Davenport (Dr. Healy), Esther Dale (First Cook), Louise Beavers (Third Cook), Ward Bond (Jim Hatton), Milburn Stone (Newark Official). BW-91m. By Jeremy Arnold Sources: Donald Dewey, James Stewart Marc Eliot, Jimmy Stewart: A Biography Wes D. Gehring, Carole Lombard Leonard Maltin, Carole Lombard

Made for Each Other on DVD


David O. Selznick's idea of the problems of an average 'unimportant' young man (as James Stewart's character is described in the opening text) becomes a dated melodrama in Made for Each Other. The show has some highly affecting sentimental scenes, and some of the worst story construction in Hollywood history. Stewart's sincerity and self-doubt rivals his turn as George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, and Carole Lombard is charmingly warm and loving, as irresistible here as she was in her zany screwball comedies. But the heavy hand of Selznick tries to cram too many movies into one plot.

Synopsis: Struggling attorney John Mason (James Stewart) marries Jane (Carole Lombard) during a weekend trip to Boston, disappointing both his stuffy boss (Charles Coburn) and his hypercritical mother (Lucile Watson), both of whom expected John to hook up with the boss's rich daughter. Domestic problems put wife and mother-in-law in opposite corners, even after a baby is born. Passed over for promotion, John becomes convinced that he's a failure, and on a sorry New Year's Eve considers the idea of breaking up - until his infant son falls ill with pneumonia.

Made for Each Other has some wonderful emotions and fine, unpretentious acting from James Stewart and Carole Lombard, who are completely convincing as a young couple hopelessly in love and trying to cope with familiar financial problems. John and Jane Mason are about as endearing as a movie couple can get, even though John's self-doubt and defeatism doesn't jibe with his supposed tenacity and assertiveness as a trial lawyer.

The movie overflows with dated ideas from the 1930s that need a little explaining now. Jane is a journalist but will give that up without a second thought to become a housewife. Babies are the perfect cure for unhappy relationships. A contented black maid dispenses wisdom in the form of a jaw-dropping story about watermelons. But other things haven't changed. Both John and Jane measure the marital success in terms of material success - getting the promotion, the big apartment, the new furniture.

Frank Capra may have been a little patronizing with his protrayals of the problems of the Little People in his "Capracorn" movies. But for the silver spoon-fed David O. Selznick, the upwardly mobile attorney played by James Stewart in Made for Each Other represents some kind of downtrodden minority. In the context of the late Depression, a dialogue line gets in the anti-Roosevelt jab that until election time, business will be giving all their profits to the government.

Furthermore, the real villains of the movie seem to be the uncouth servants that make demands and ruin Stewart's dinner parties. When Carole Lombard finally gets perfect domestic help in the form of Louise Beavers, the family's money woes force the couple to forego servants and fend for themselves. That's Selznick's idea of a dire situation. I don't think he'd sympathize with the problems of the deserving lovebirds in Preston Sturges' Christmas in July who can't marry because of grinding poverty, and can only see each other on a tenement rooftop. Selznick establishes that his couple are suffering crushing debt, yet can go out to an expensive nightclub on New Years' Eve.

Made for Each Other is an endearing movie, directed with emotional clarity by John Cromwell and interestingly designed by William Cameron Menzies. But its final act is a ridiculous mess. The baby's pneumonia can be cured only with a wonder serum that needs to be flown in from Salt Lake City during a blizzard. The domestic story goes out the window in favor of a full-blown aviation subplot from Only Angels Have Wings while the entire country holds its breath over the fate of the Mason's infant. Selznick overplays his hand, with prayers to the Virgin Mary resulting in the miraculous survival of the mercy plane and its intrepid pilot. "Saving the baby" was a common Depression-era plot chestnut, and all of the characters previously hostile to our couple's situation naturally come to their aid.

What we really learn is that getting a lot of sympathy for a sick child can change everything for the better. No sooner is the little squab healthy than John becomes the most important man in the law firm and all problems are solved. It's the worst pandering in any Selznick movie, and one has to credit the depthless charm of Lombard and Stewart that the movie is still enjoyable. The film is more proof that Hollywood lost one of its brightest stars when Carole Lombard died in a terrible airplane accident a couple of years later.

Among the supporting cast are Ward Bond as a reluctant pilot and Olin Howland (the first victim of the original The Blob) as a farmer who helps rush that wonder drug to the hospital. It's almost 20 years before The Blob, but Howlind is already playing a doddering old man.

MGM's DVD of Made for Each Other is another of their ABC acquisitions, although the film started out 65 years ago as a United Artists release. The print is reasonably good, certainly much better than the many substandard Public Domain copies I've seen over the years. There are no extras.

For more information about Made for Each Other, visit MGM DVD. To order Made for Each Other, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

Made for Each Other on DVD

David O. Selznick's idea of the problems of an average 'unimportant' young man (as James Stewart's character is described in the opening text) becomes a dated melodrama in Made for Each Other. The show has some highly affecting sentimental scenes, and some of the worst story construction in Hollywood history. Stewart's sincerity and self-doubt rivals his turn as George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, and Carole Lombard is charmingly warm and loving, as irresistible here as she was in her zany screwball comedies. But the heavy hand of Selznick tries to cram too many movies into one plot. Synopsis: Struggling attorney John Mason (James Stewart) marries Jane (Carole Lombard) during a weekend trip to Boston, disappointing both his stuffy boss (Charles Coburn) and his hypercritical mother (Lucile Watson), both of whom expected John to hook up with the boss's rich daughter. Domestic problems put wife and mother-in-law in opposite corners, even after a baby is born. Passed over for promotion, John becomes convinced that he's a failure, and on a sorry New Year's Eve considers the idea of breaking up - until his infant son falls ill with pneumonia. Made for Each Other has some wonderful emotions and fine, unpretentious acting from James Stewart and Carole Lombard, who are completely convincing as a young couple hopelessly in love and trying to cope with familiar financial problems. John and Jane Mason are about as endearing as a movie couple can get, even though John's self-doubt and defeatism doesn't jibe with his supposed tenacity and assertiveness as a trial lawyer. The movie overflows with dated ideas from the 1930s that need a little explaining now. Jane is a journalist but will give that up without a second thought to become a housewife. Babies are the perfect cure for unhappy relationships. A contented black maid dispenses wisdom in the form of a jaw-dropping story about watermelons. But other things haven't changed. Both John and Jane measure the marital success in terms of material success - getting the promotion, the big apartment, the new furniture. Frank Capra may have been a little patronizing with his protrayals of the problems of the Little People in his "Capracorn" movies. But for the silver spoon-fed David O. Selznick, the upwardly mobile attorney played by James Stewart in Made for Each Other represents some kind of downtrodden minority. In the context of the late Depression, a dialogue line gets in the anti-Roosevelt jab that until election time, business will be giving all their profits to the government. Furthermore, the real villains of the movie seem to be the uncouth servants that make demands and ruin Stewart's dinner parties. When Carole Lombard finally gets perfect domestic help in the form of Louise Beavers, the family's money woes force the couple to forego servants and fend for themselves. That's Selznick's idea of a dire situation. I don't think he'd sympathize with the problems of the deserving lovebirds in Preston Sturges' Christmas in July who can't marry because of grinding poverty, and can only see each other on a tenement rooftop. Selznick establishes that his couple are suffering crushing debt, yet can go out to an expensive nightclub on New Years' Eve. Made for Each Other is an endearing movie, directed with emotional clarity by John Cromwell and interestingly designed by William Cameron Menzies. But its final act is a ridiculous mess. The baby's pneumonia can be cured only with a wonder serum that needs to be flown in from Salt Lake City during a blizzard. The domestic story goes out the window in favor of a full-blown aviation subplot from Only Angels Have Wings while the entire country holds its breath over the fate of the Mason's infant. Selznick overplays his hand, with prayers to the Virgin Mary resulting in the miraculous survival of the mercy plane and its intrepid pilot. "Saving the baby" was a common Depression-era plot chestnut, and all of the characters previously hostile to our couple's situation naturally come to their aid. What we really learn is that getting a lot of sympathy for a sick child can change everything for the better. No sooner is the little squab healthy than John becomes the most important man in the law firm and all problems are solved. It's the worst pandering in any Selznick movie, and one has to credit the depthless charm of Lombard and Stewart that the movie is still enjoyable. The film is more proof that Hollywood lost one of its brightest stars when Carole Lombard died in a terrible airplane accident a couple of years later. Among the supporting cast are Ward Bond as a reluctant pilot and Olin Howland (the first victim of the original The Blob) as a farmer who helps rush that wonder drug to the hospital. It's almost 20 years before The Blob, but Howlind is already playing a doddering old man. MGM's DVD of Made for Each Other is another of their ABC acquisitions, although the film started out 65 years ago as a United Artists release. The print is reasonably good, certainly much better than the many substandard Public Domain copies I've seen over the years. There are no extras. For more information about Made for Each Other, visit MGM DVD. To order Made for Each Other, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

Never let the seeds stop you from enjoying the watermelon.
- Lily
That's alright if you've got a watermelon.
- Jane
You mustn't say that, Miss Mason. You've got your watermelon, but you chokes yourself up on all the little seeds. I always say "Spit 'em out before they spoil your taste for the melon."
- Lily

Trivia

David O. Selznick's experience of trying to have life-saving serum flown in for his critically ill brother was the basis for the flying sequences ending the movie.

Special effects technician Edmund E. Fellegi was killed when he fell from a 40-foot catwalk while releasing balloons for the New Year's Eve party scenes.

Seven actors listed in records for this movie were not seen in the final print. These are (with their character names) Jack Mulhall (Rock Springs Radio Operator), Arthur Gardner (Iowa City Radio Operator), John M. Sullivan (John Hopkins Chemist), John Austin (Allentown Radio Operator), and the three Doctors, Robert Strange, Perry Ivins and Gladden James.

Notes

According to an article in Life, the serum flying sequence in this film was based on an actual incident in which producer David O. Selznick attempted to have serum flown from New York for his critically ill brother Myron, who had pneumonia. A news item in Hollywood Citizen-News reports that Edmund E. Fellegi, a special effects technician, plunged to his death from a forty foot catwalk from which he was releasing balloons for the New Year's Eve party scenes in this picture. Oscar Levant, in his autobiographical writings, states that he gave Selznick some musical material for this film. In February 1940, Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray appeared in a Lux Radio Theatre version of this story, and in December 1945, James Stewart and Marsha Hunt appeared in another Lux Radio Theatre version.