Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1939. Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Dwight Taylor, based on the story A Modern Cinderella by James M. Cain. Cinematography by John J. Mescall. Produced by John M. Stahl. Music by Frank Skinner. Production Design by Jack Otterson. Costume Design by Vera West. Film Editing by Milton Carruth. Academy Awards 1939.
Irene Dunne is a waitress at a New York diner whose unionized waitresses are preparing to strike over improving conditions at their establishment. Dunne serves a handsome, classy pianist (Charles Boyer) and he takes an instant liking to her, following her to a union meeting where she inspires the room to follow through with the strike. Resisting his advances, Dunne eventually relents to spending the next day with this prince of a man, ending the evening at his mansion on Long Island but, being a lady, decides to head home early despite the torrential rain falling outside. Boyer tries to drive her back to Manhattan, but the storm is actually a hurricane that devastates the area and forces them to find shelter in an abandoned and flooded church after a tree destroys their car and nearly kills them. In the hours they spend together overnight, the couple realize that they are deeply in love and that their dream must soon end: she knows she can’t live in a wealthy man’s world, and he hasn’t yet told her that he is still married to his mentally ill wife (Barbara O’Neil). The attempt at some kind of class consciousness fails miserably, commie writers in Hollywood’s golden age could only include their politics in the first half of a movie and had to devote the remainder to fantasy, while Dunne seems to have quite the sophisticated bearing and wardrobe for a girl who carries trays of roast beef for a living. The plot is the stuff of many other silly romances (similar to Love Affair, also starring these two and released the same year) and has a woefully unsatisfying ending, but the storm sequence is exciting and the performances are sincere.