Holy Matrimony (1943)

Holy Matrimony
Directed by John M. Stahl
Written by Nunnally Johnson from a play by Arnold Bennett
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
First viewing/20th Century Fox Film Archives DVD

Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor. Which is one very strong argument in favor of matrimony. — Jane Austen

I enjoyed this oft-made story about a reclusive artist who finds love when he poses as his own valet. I preferred His Double Life (1933), starring Roland Young and Lillian Gish, however.

Priam Farll (Monty Woolley) is a world-renowned artist who, scorning publicity, has lived in the most remote parts of the world with his faithful valet Henry Leek (Eric Blore) for 25 years.  He reluctantly returns to London to receive a knighthood.  Shortly after he arrives, Leek contracts pneumonia and dies.  The doctor assumes the man he treated was the painter and Farll does not disabuse him of that notion.  Farll plays along and even watches “his” funeral followed by a burial in Westminster Abbey from the organ loft.

Leek had been corresponding through a matrimonial bureau with Alice Chalice (Gracie Fields).  She locates the false Leek and they fall in love and marry.  Farll continues to paint for his own pleasure.  The jig could be up when Alice surreptitiously starts selling the paintings for a song.   With Laird Cregar as an art dealer, Una O’Connor as Leek’s estranged wife, and Franklin Pangborn as Farll’s cousin.

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This film is amusing, if not laugh out loud funny, with some good performances.  I thought Monty Woolly was miscast.  The part requires someone that is reticent with people. Woolly’s painter likes nothing better than to boss them around.  Roland Young was perfect.  I can also imagine Charles Laughton in the part.

Holy Matrimony was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay



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