Release Date(s)1935 (July 20, 2021)
Studio(s)Paramount Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B
Set in Depression-era Chicago, The Bride Comes Home is a screwball comedy with a romantic triangle as its focus. Jeannette Desmereau (Claudette Colbert, It Happened One Night) is a willful socialite who, because of the stock market crash, is broke, though she still lives with her father in a fine home and dresses elegantly. Her good friend, millionaire Jack Bristol (Robert Young, The Canterville Ghost) has been proposing marriage to her for years. Jack’s tough bodyguard Cy Anderson (Fred MacMurray, Double Indemnity), doesn’t think much of Jeannette and the antipathy is mutual.
Determined to earn a living despite never having been trained for anything, Jeannette wangles a job from Jack, who has just begun to publish a men’s magazine. She’s to be the assistant editor. But the editor is Cy. Romantic tensions escalate as both men vie for Jeannette’s affections, but they are polar opposites. Jack is well bred and rather bland, but offers her the security she no longer has. Cy is rough around the edges and quick-tempered, but he’s passionate.
Director Wesley Ruggles, working with a limp, cliche-ridden script by Claude Binyon and Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, was unable to infuse the proceedings with the light, airy feel of the best screwball comedies. Rather than comic bickering—a staple of screwball comedy—there’s a lot of anger that isn’t at all funny. Not until the final scene does the film actually resemble a screwball comedy, but by that time, it’s too late.
Colbert, who had a huge hit the year before and won an Academy Award for It Happened One Night, goes through the motions but can’t rise above dialogue that should sparkle but instead falls flat. It’s difficult to sympathize with Jeannette. It’s admirable that she takes her penniless state of affairs seriously and realizes she has to earn a living, but working with Cy and Jack isn’t smart and can only lead to trouble. This contrivance diminishes Jeannette’s intelligence and makes us wonder why she doesn’t draw upon her self-confidence to look for other opportunities. Even comedy must have logic, screwball though it may be. Because Colbert has a likable screen presence, we go along with the plot, but we never really identify with her plight.
The male leads do their best but can’t overcome feebly written roles. Young is laid back and smiles a lot, as required for the character of an amiable, feckless cipher. MacMurray, in contrast, pushes too hard too often as Cy. The biggest drawback to the film is that there’s little chemistry between Colbert and either of her suitors. The best chemistry is between Young and MacMurray who, despite vying for the same woman’s affections, have a bond that feels authentic.
The cast includes Edgar Kennedy, Donald Meek, and William Collier, Sr., who add badly needed comic moments in supporting roles that have some of the sharpest dialogue. The film doesn’t come to life until the last ten minutes. Fast-paced with both verbal and physical comedy, the final scene has an energy that the rest of the film lacks. It’s at least a reward for sitting through the first 73 minutes.
Featuring 1080p resolution, the film is presented by Kino Lorber Studio Classics in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The picture is quite clean and free of dirt, scratches, emulsion clouding, and other debris. The grey spectrum is pleasant with blacks deep and rich. Lee Tover’s cinematography features mostly high-key lighting with little variation. Jeannette is elegantly dressed (courtesy of Travis Banton), reflecting her taste and a life of material comfort. In a scene in which Cy stays at Jack’s apartment, Cy is seen getting into pajamas, his chest bared, to highlight his character’s manliness. Process photography is used in several scenes, a common technique in studio-bound films. This is most apparent, and not very convincing, in a scene of Cy and Jeannette’s father racing together on a motorcycle. A wind machine blows their hair, but the actors are in sharper focus than the rear projection, which is obvious.
The soundtrack is English 2.0 Mono DTS-High Definition Master Audio. English SDH subtitles are available. Dialogue is clear throughout. The three main characters speak in different ways. Cy speaks quickly and makes every other sentence sound like a challenge. In his scenes with Jeannette, his temper flares up repeatedly, making us wonder why she finds him so appealing. Jack is mild-mannered and easygoing, never expressing jealousy or challenging Jeannette about her dual attractions. Jeannette is self-assured, yet is slow to object to a pointless assignment at the magazine. Edgar Kennedy as the justice of the peace insists on a modicum of decorum if he is to perform a wedding. Donald Meek in a small but memorable role lives up to his name as a little, officious man obsessed with time. The musical score is undistinguished and uncredited and does little to energize scenes.
Bonus materials include an audio commentary and several theatrical trailers.
Audio Commentary – Author and film historian Lee Gambin notes that Claudette Colbert would become one of the reigning queens of screwball comedy. She could balance comedy with heavy drama. Made at the depth of the Great Depression, The Bride Comes Home, deals with a rich young woman who must now work for a living. The role of the working, single woman would become a fixture in 1940s movies. Jeannette has had everything but has to start all over in order to find a place of purpose. In Imitation of Life, Colbert played a woman from a modest background who forms a partnership and becomes a successful businesswoman. In The Bride Comes Home, her character is capable of discovering talents she didn’t know she had. Colbert was good at playing vulnerable characters. In 1934, she played an heiress on the run in It Happened One Night and won both acclaim and an Academy Award. Paramount wasted no time marketing her as a screwball comedy star. In The Bride Comes Home, she is “hopelessly down to earth.” As competitors, Robert Young is a good contrast to Fred MacMurray’s hard-nosed, no-nonsense guy. Cy is contemptuous of those with great wealth. MacMurray is referred to as “the perfect personification of the American male.” MacMurray could do drama, crime thrillers, war films, and screwball comedies, exuding a “homespun earthy pleasure and masculine prowess with manly robust handsomeness.” MacMurray’s films The Shaggy Dog and Double Indemnity as well as his TV series My Three Sons are cited. The world of publishing provides the backdrop as the central characters learn about one another. Cy is relatable as a “regular Joe,” his aura of lust and danger much at variance with Jack’s stuffy normalcy. Director Wesley Ruggles was able to elicit energetic performances from his stars. He also worked with Carole Lombard and Mae West. Ruggles understands the language of the camera and how to highlight emotions. The Bride Comes Home is a trilogy of characters in search of a decent plot. It possesses a glossy brightness, but that is not enough.
Theatrical Trailers – Eight trailers for films available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics are included: The Bride Goes Home, The Gilded Lily, Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, Since You Went Away, Thunder on the Hill, Murder, He Says, There’s Always Tomorrow, and I’m No Angel.
The Bride Comes Home tries hard but never reaches the level of a top screwball comedy. The characters could have been interesting in themselves but are never developed and never mesh into a cohesive story. Too often the comedy appears strained or forced, lacking the natural zaniness we’ve come to expect of the genre.
- Dennis Seuling