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"Merrily We Go to Hell"

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Character's Name: Charlie Baxter 'DeBrion'           
b  June 10, 1932
Director: Dorothy Arzner
Studio:  Paramount Publix
Running Time: 82 minutes

Cast:  Sylvia Sidney (Joan), Fredric March (Jerry), Adrianne Allen (Claire), Skeets Gallagher (Buck), Florence Britton (Charicle), Esther Howard (Vi), George Irving (Mr. Prentice), Kent Taylor (Dick Taylor), Charles Colman (Damery), Leonard Carey (Butler), Milla Davenport (Housekeeper), Robert Greig (Baritone), Rev. Neal Dodd (Minister), Mildred Boyd (June), Cary Grant ( Stage Leading Man)

- by ZoŽ Shaw
Charlie Exeter 'DeBrion' is the leading man in a play written by Jerry. Jerry drinks a lot which causes problems, but he gets married to Joan. It doesn't last long and she goes to live with her dad. However, she is preggers and becomes critically ill. Eventually, Jerry is allowed to see her, and promises to lead a better life.

- by Debbie Dunlap
Fredric March plays Jerry Corbett, an alcoholic who never got over his big love. Sylvia Sidney is Joan Prentice, the woman who makes him forget. Until.... Yes, folks, Claire, Jerry's former flame comes back into the picture. Soon it's back to the bottle and marriage on the rocks for Jerry and Joan. Joan makes the bright decision that what's good for the goose is good for the gander and begins to drink and party like Jerry. (CG is one of her flings.) Joan becomes ill from this raucous living and goes home to her rich daddy. Upon Joan's departure, Jerry suddenly decides he really does love Joan after all, dumps Claire, and tries desperately to see Joan to tell her. Joan's daddy prevents Jerry from seeing Joan. A newspaper clipping clues Jerry in to the fact that he's just become a father. He races to the hospital, struggles with his father-in-law to see his wife and child, only to discover that his child died just two hours after birth. "All's well that ends well," as Jerry leans over, kisses Joan and at long last confesses his love. Depressing!

VARIETY Film Review - June 14, 1932
- by "Rush"
- submitted by Barry Martin
Broadway screen is knee deep this week in journalist heroes, plastered, slightly jingled and cold sober.  This one has the plastered hero, a charming irresponsible immaculately played by Fredric March in a light and graceful way.  Persuasive playing by this young actor and by Sylvia Sidney puts the release in the running for good box office prospects.  In less happy casting a sometimes muddled story would have raised a question of its fate.

These players, however, turn the trick.  Both the young people have a substantial following, and this one will gain them more well-wishers.  Strength of the picture probably will be on the side of feminine interest, story having to do with the trials and tribulations that beset young married people, when a temperamental young husband with a broken heart and a burning thirst and an emotional little rich girl clash after the wedding day.

Broken heart is left from an unfortunate love affair and the thirst seems to be inherent in the reporter genus on the screen.  Anyway, here it evolves into many complications, some of them humanly interesting, some of them not quite clear and intelligible.  Maybe the aberrations of romantic young couples aren't meant to be intelligible and maybe they somehow add to the engaging charm of young couples such as these.  Anyhow, they're both very real people, and their fate engages interest, even if it doesn't arouse any vivid emotional reaction.  

All this is to say that the playing of the two leads by March and Miss Sidney is the substance of the entertainment.  What happens isn't of great moment, except as it affects two engaging characters.  Fitting most neatly into the picture is the suave vamp character of The Other Woman, played with a great deal of poise by Adrianne Allen, a decorative and svelte blonde who brings a new distinction to the vamp type, which as lately been becoming a brunet stencil.  Skeets Gallagher has the assignment of the inevitable shadow of the drunken reporter, playing a strictly utility role with commendable simplicity.

Story opens in a cheerful spirit of comedy, moves along to a romantic measure and comes to a strong finish in a touch of sentimental seriousness that rounds out a fairly absorbing, if slightly commonplace, history.  Of dramatic action there is practically none, play being pitched on a plane of polite comedy, and the running time is rather overboard for that style of entertainment.  Eighty-three minutes is quite a stretch of attention in a large measure with pleasant persiflage and drawing room gatherings, be the romantic tangle drawn ever so tight.  Recounting of husband and wife clashes can become tiresome if too often repeated, as they are here, and the 18th Amendment debate can be overdone in the domestic scene as well as in the political forum.

Only here the tenuous story is supported by the fact that the people concerned have early made themselves likable and engaged the interested sympathy of the audience, a special tribute to the two people who play the parts.

Fine direction probably also accounts for much of the picture's effect, notable for its artful directness, direction that stays in the background and works through its impersonal medium, instead of calling attention to itself by trick angles and strained devices.  As much cannot be said for the dialog, which is often extremely 'literary' and must have been a sore trial to director and players both.  

New York Times Film Review - June 14, 1932
- by Mordaunt Hall
- submitted by Barry Martin
Besides the screen attraction, "Merrily We Go to Hell," there is at the Paramount a colorful and frequently amusing stage program, which winds up with an impressive spectacle as the background for Everett Marshall's singing of "Mandalay."

There have been many strange changes in story titles, but few of them as strange as that of the picture at this theatre. Imagine Cleo Lucas's novel, "I, Jerry, Take Thee, Joan," being known in shadow form as "Merrily We Go to Hell"! This production is another with excellent acting, especially by Sylvia Sidney and Fredric March, but the many scenes showing constant intoxication of a newspaper man who writes a successful play are not particularly interesting or edifying.

It seems as though Jerry Corbett, played by Mr. March, behaves so badly that no woman would forgive him. He gets drunk when he is expected to be at a party at which Joan Prentice, an heiress, announces her engagement to him, and also when his play is presented. If he does not imbibe too freely, he is an hour or so late, and he adds to these offenses by carrying on after his marriage a flirtation with an old flame, who plays the leading role in this play.

The elemental comedy in this film provoked a good deal of hearty laughter. The audience roared when Corbett placed his handkerchief on a carefully polished floor and they howled with glee when at the most elaborate marriage ceremony Corbett, being unable to find the wedding ring, brings forth a bottle opener, which is put upon the bride's finger.

The title, "Merrily We Go to Hell," is a toast Corbett is in the habit of offering during his lamentable drinking bouts. His pal, Buck, impersonated by Richard Gallagher, has his work cut out in watching the writer. Buck is constantly voicing what the country needs. At one point it is "more blondes and more men like myself." In a cabaret he wants less ventilation and more smoke.

After Joan has accepted Corbett's proposal of marriage, he visits a speakeasy and has a high old time telling various persons that he is going to be married, but advises them to keep the information under their hats. If they have no hat on, he finds one for them. Even the bartender is told the secret, and as time goes on Corbett and his friends, including Buck's girl, decide to burst into song, but they have no baritone. This entails a search for a baritone and the three persons visit several drinking places, where they discover a baritone in the person of a bartender. This section of the picture has its humorous moments.

In the final episodes, after Joan has left her husband and returned to her father's home in Chicago, there is a vein of sadness. Joan is critically ill in a maternity hospital and her father refuses at first to permit Corbett to see her. Joan, however, asks for her husband and it is presumed that his presence helps her to recover.

This picture was directed by Dorothy Arzner, who has done some good work, although the church marriage scene is a Hollywood notion of what such a ceremony looks like. Miss Arzner, however, has evidently been handicapped by the script.

In the course of the hectic proceedings there is a fling at modern ideas, which are contrasted with those of years gone by. The theme, so far as this is concerned is, however, quite a little vague in its real meaning.  

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