Penny Serenade (1941)

Penny SerenadePenny Serenade poster
Directed by George Stevens
Written by Martha Cheavens and Morrie Ryskind
Columbia Pictures Corporation

First viewing/Netflix rental

Roger Adams: I-I’ll beg, I’ll borrow, I-I’ll… please Judge I’ll sell anything I’ve got until I get going again. And she’ll never go hungry, she’ll never be without clothes not so long as I’ve got two good hands so help me!

With every picture I see directed by George Stevens, I admire his work more.

The story is told in flashback as Julie Adams (Irene Dunne) listens to records from her past while she is preparing to leave husband Roger (Cary Grant).  They meet at a record shop and music follows them throughout their marriage, which takes place just prior to Roger’s move to Tokyo as a foreign correspondent.  After Julie joins him she becomes pregnant and Roger inherits a few thousand dollars.  He wants to quit his job, take a round the world cruise, and then go back to America and buy his own newspaper.  Julie is more cautious.  In the event, before anything happens their apartment is destroyed by the Tokyo earthquake and Julie is knocked down by the rubble.

Now unable to have a baby of their own, Roger buys a small town newspaper and the couple eventually decides to adopt.  Further happiness and heartbreak awaits them.  With Edgar Buchanan as a friend and adviser and Beulah Bondi as the head of the orphanage.

Penny Serenade 1


I put off watching this one out of fear that it would be a super-saccharine melodrama.  I needn’t have worried.  I loved it, even though I was in tears by the end.

George Stevens is so underrated.  I just love the way he gets so much out of the silences in the dialogue.  Near the beginning, there is something that could be a real cliche – the montage of the circulation figures on the newspaper masthead.  But Stevens does something different.  The masthead changes but the circulation does not.  We see both the passage of time and the state of the couple’s finances without a word spoken.  I also loved the use of ellipses in the film.  There is some stuff the audience just does not need to see and the film is as moving seeing only the after-effects.

All the acting is wonderful..  This was one of Edgar Buchanan’s first films and he is great in it.   And Cary Grant so deserved his nomination!.  I started crying with his plea to the judge.  This could have been really over-the-top but I was convinced.  Recommended.

Cary Grant was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in Penny Serenade..

Clip – remembering

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