Come Live With Me (1941, dir. Clarence Brown)

“Come live with me and be my love, and we will all the pleasures prove that hills and valleys, dales and fields, woods or craggy mountains yeild. And I will make ye beds of roses and a thousand fragrant posies… and… and… something, something, something, something…  And if these pleasures do ye move, come live with me and be my love.”

Social networking is a great thing as far as instant news goes. I was between classes a few weeks ago when I saw on my Twitter feed that TCM was airing a Jimmy Stewart film I hadn’t seen. I texted my mom to DVR it for me ( I think she’s starting to get used to her DVR being clogged with my classic movies), and I finally got around to watching it the other day.

Come Live With Me is one of the last films Jimmy Stewart made before he left Hollywood to join the war effort. It’s a romantic comedy, so you can pretty much guess what is going to happen from the beginning, but I found it to be a light and charming movie that had plenty of laughs along the way.

Hedy Lamarr plays the beautiful Johnny Jones, an illegal immigrant from Austria who is still living in America after her visa has expired. She is in love with Barton Kendrick (Ian Hunter), a publishing company head who is already married, but who shares a “modern,” open marriage with his wife Diane (Varee Teasdale). Johnny is told by the immigration officer that if she marries an American citizen, that would take care of her problem. But Kendrick is already married, so she resigns herself to her fate.

Enter penniless writer Bill Smith (Stewart) who meets Johnny by chance in a cafe. She proposes a marriage of convenience; she’ll pay Bill his living expenses so he can focus on writing, he marries her so she can stay. And of course, no romantic obligations. Bill, however, starts to write his new novel, Without Love, basing it on his real-life situation with Johnny, and he starts to want a happy ending.

At about this time, Kendrick announces to Johnny that he is going to ask his wife for a divorce so they can marry. Johnny visits Bill the next day, telling him she needs a divorce. Broken-hearted, Bill says he’ll do it. Little does Johnny know about the book Bill has been working on, and the fact that he sent copies of the manuscript to several publishing houses. Diane Kendrick reads the copy sent to her husband’s office, and recommends he meet Bill and give him a publishing deal.

Upon reading the story and meeting Bill in person, Kendrick becomes suspicious that Without Love is their story and Bill is Johnny’s paid husband. However, trying to act normal in front of his wife, Kendrick signs over a $500 advance to Bill. Feeling he is no longer indebted to Johnny, Bill pays her back and tells her she has to go on one trip with him before he divorces her. He drives her back to his grandmother’s country farm, and Johnny starts to see Bill for the first time.

Johnny is now left with a choice. She is free to leave Bill and marry Kendrick, but she finds herself increasingly drawn to the country boy she married out of need. Like most romantic comedies, you know where the story will end up, but it’s really about how good the journey was to get there.

Stewart is charming as Bill Smith. It’s a sweet performance, not as deep a role as the ones he had in The Shop Around the Corner or The Philadelphia Story, also both comedies, but it plays on that easygoing charm Stewart had naturally. That’s not to say everyone is phoning it in, it’s just the characters seem pretty stock for this kind of a movie, and in their roles, they do well. Come Live With Me is fun and entertaining, but it’s not  considered a Stewart comedy classic, and you can kind of see why when compared to the other two films mentioned above, which are.

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