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"Penny Serenade"

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Character's Name: Roger Adams
Release Date:  April 24, 1941
Director: George Stevens
Studio:  Columbia
Running Time: 118 minutes

Cast: Cary Grant (Roger Adams), Irene Dunne ( Julie Gardiner Adams) Beulah Bondi (Miss Oliver), Edgar Buchanan (Applejack), Ann Doran (Dotty), Eva Lee Kuney (Trina), Leonard Willey (Dr. Hartley), Wallis Clark (Judge), Walter Soderling (Billings)


Watch "Penny Serenade" - 1:59:07

- by ZoŽ Shaw
In Japan, an earthquake causes the death of Roger and Julie's unborn child. Back in America, they adopt a baby despite the family's precarious financial condition. They raise their daughter until the age of 6, when she dies suddenly. Grief almost separates Roger and Julie, but they are brought together again when they are offered another chance to adopt.

- by ZoŽ Shaw
Newspaper man Roger Adams (Cary Grant) and record shop worker Julie Gardiner (Irene Dunne) fall in love at first sight. Their romance leads to marriage on New Year's Eve, after which Roger leaves for a job in Tokyo. Julie joins him three months later and announces she is pregnant. Disaster strikes when Julie loses the baby in an earthquake and is unable to bear any more children. Julie and Roger return to America where Roger buys a small country newspaper, and the couple begin the process of adopting a child. However, during their years "probation" with the baby, Roger's newspaper folds and it looks as though the couple are going to lose the child they love dearly due to their poor finances. A heartfelt plea by Roger to the judge secures the adoption, and they raise the child to the age of six. A sudden illness takes the child away from them causing the couple to come close to separation.

This separation is where the movie begins, for the story is told through a series of flashbacks, each introduced by a piece of music from Julie's record collection. Cary was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for his superb performance, but I can't help feeling that this movie really belongs to Edgar Buchanan, who plays the couples loyal friend, Applejack, to perfection. Just watch the scene in which he bathes the baby!

If you are going to watch this movie, make sure you have a big box of hankies close by. If, by some miracle, you manage to keep a dry eye through the scene where Cary appeals to the judge not to take away the baby, the ending of this movie will undoubtedly make you weep.

VARIETY Film Review - April 16, 1941
- by "Flin"
- submitted by Barry Martin
Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, who a short time ago had audiences howling at their antics in 'The Awful Truth,' return to the Columbia banner in 'Penny Serenade,' and the same customers are going to have just as fine a time sniffling and weeping over a very sentimental story about husband, wife and adopted child.  Exhibitors would be smart to furnish handkerchiefs at the boxoffice.  Incidentally, they had better lay in a big supply.  This is the best tear-jerker that has come to the screen since the first production of 'Madame.'  And that's going way back.

Produced with less skill and acted with less sincerity, 'Penny Serenade' might have missed the mark by a mile, but George Stevens' direction and the excellence of the stars' playing make the film an entry for top bookings and extended first runs.  It is fashioned for the family trade everywhere, with special matinee appeal.  The characters are young home folks and could be duplicated in an instant from any local phone book.

Here's the story.  Miss Dunne and Grant adopt a six weeks old baby and raise her until she is six, when she dies, after a brief illness.  Then they adopt a boy of two.  

That's all, but the telling of it from an excellently written screenscript by Morrie Ryskind, who found inspiration from a McCall's Magazine story by Martha Cheavens, occupies nearly two hours, in the course of which there are tenderness, heart-throb, comedy and good, old-fashioned, gulping tears.  Half a dozen times the yarn approaches the saccharine, only to be turned back into sound, human comedy-drama.

Film marks the return of Miss Dunne after an extended vacation, the only effects of which seem to be that she proves again her place among the handful of women screen stars.  In the role of not too prosperous wife of a small-town struggling newspaper publisher, she is gay and earnest, and plays the sentimental passages with restraint.  She has had more spectacular roles, but none that required sustaining quite the mood of her latest film.

Grant, also, takes the assignment in stride, scoring in several bits as a baby nurse and pleading foster-father.

Supporting cast includes Beulah Bondi, Edgar Buchanan and Ann Doran.  Despite the tuneful title, the only melody hard is via a few phonograph platters.  

Film should turn out to be a serenade of quarters at the boxoffice.  

NEW YORK TIMES Film Review - May 16, 1941
- by Bosley Crowther
- submitted by Barry Martin
When you go to the Music Hall this time, take along a couple of blotters and a sponge.  In fact, if you are prone to easy weeping, you might even take along a washtub.  And don't be disturbed if your neighbor, unprovided, drips and splatters all over you.  For this time the comic muse very frequently gives way to tears.  This time Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, whose previous cinematic marriages have been more or less on the frivolous and nicely indecent side, are so blissfully and properly united that it takes a tragedy to threaten briefly to tear them apart.  This time the new picture is Columbia's "Penny Serenade."

When you think about it coolly and dispassionately - and after an interval of at least an hour - you can't help but feel that somebody has slipped a fast one over on you.  Maybe it is Producer George Stevens, who has put together a film which employs not one but six or seven of the recognized sob-story tricks.  Maybe it is Miss Dunne, who originally succumbs to one of the most severe cases of galloping nostalgia we have ever witnessed on the screen.  And maybe it is Mr. Grant, that worldly and jocular chap, who shamelessly permits a tiny tot to play "Home, Sweet Home" on his heart-strings.  The thing is you never suspect these people are going quite so soft on you until - bam! - they are wallowing in sentiment and your eyes are leaking like a sieve.

But that's the way it is.  From the moment that Miss Dunne sadly turns on the old gramaphone and, to the plaintive strains of "You Were Meant for Me," the scene fades back to her first meeting with Mr. Grant, you may recognize that you are in for a reminiscent wrench.  Then, as she successively replenishes the music box with such nostalgic tunes as "Just a Memory," "Missouri Waltz," "Poor Butterfly," "Blue Heaven," etc., right out of a book, you follow the couple as they marry, suffer countless little woes, buy a country newspaper, adopt a baby and finally lose the child they love so much.

And slowly, without being aware of it, you drift with them and the film from brittle, sophisticated comedy to out-and-out softy stuff, from the quixotic plighting of their troth at a New Year's Eve party to the first fearful bathing of baby in the familiar new-parents comedy vein.  And then you are sniffling and gulping as little daughter takes part in her first school play and you know that the teacher's promise that she can be "an angel next year" is irony.  Somehow, it all goes down, despite a woefully overlong script - all but Mr. Grant's recalcitrance after the little one is gone.  It's hard to believe that a man could treat his ever-loving wife so wretchedly, at a time when both would be drawn even closer together by grief.  And their sudden joyful willingness to adopt another child is open to doubt.  

But some very credible acting on the part of Mr. Grant and Miss Dunne is responsible in the main for the infectious quality of the film.  Edgar Buchanan, too, gives an excellent performance as a good-old-Charlie friend, and Beulah Bondi is sensible as an orphanage matron.  Heart-warming is the word for both of them.  As a matter of fact, the whole picture deliberately cozies up to the heart.  Noel Coward once dryly observed how extraordinarily potent cheap music is.  That is certainly true of "Penny Serenade."  

- by Kathy Fox
For Cary Grant fans and for classic movie lovers alike, PENNY SERENADE, filmed in 1941, and released on my birth date, April 24, 1941, two years prior to my entering this world, is a film that brings out the emotions and empathy of every moviegoer. This is Cary Grant's first Oscar nomination (he was nominated again in 1944, for NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART) but he lost his first Oscar to rival Cary Cooper in SERGEANT YORK. Gary Grant gives a solid and very poignant performance as Roger Adams who falls deeply in love with Julie Gardiner, a record store employee, graciously played by Irene Dunne. Gary will make three movies total with Ms. Dunne: THE AWFUL TRUTH, MY FAVORITE WIFE, and PENNY SERENADE. They make a very handsome couple.  This love story is about the trials and tribulations and devastation which befall this beautiful couple after Julie has a miscarriage because of an earthquake in Tokyo, Japan, and their subsequent adoption in California of a six-week-old baby girl, Trina, who falls ill when she is about six years old and also dies. 

This movie is filmed in flashbacks, via the vehicle of old records, to introduce the story to the moviegoer.  When Julie and Roger first meet, the look on Cary's face when he asks Julie if she has a victrola to play the plethora of records he has just bought from her, gets me every time. Cary's facial expressions throughout his films are of extreme importance to the moviegoer. He learned this technique when he was working with Bob Pender and his Knockabout Comedians in Europe and subsequently in America after he came over on the R.M.S. Olympic in 1920.  Mr. Grant uses this technique, the art of speaking without words, throughout his movies and as one views his films, the moviegoer is privileged to seeing and understanding this great asset as displayed in all of his characters.  When Roger goes to the lawyer in order to obtain full custody of his daughter, Trina, his speech to the judge is so eloquent and filled with emotion that the tears come non-stop.  Every time I watch it, the same emotion erupts in my psyche: the ability of Mr. Grant to bring the moviegoers to their knees and experience the same feelings that he is portraying on the screen. This is the true mark of a great actor.  And of course, we all know that Cary was the greatest of comedians, as well.

This film is of a serious nature, the death of two children, but it is intertwined with the comedic abilities of Grant and Dunne, who are very comfortable with each other on screen.  When you look at the time table of Cary Grant's life, this movie was made in 1941 and Cary was 25 years away from the birth of his first and only child, Jennifer, in 1966.  Since Mr. Grant is no longer with us and his life is an open book for those you are interested, all of us Cary Grant lovers can look back over his life as he made these 72 unforgettable movies and think of what was happening personally in his life as he was making these wonderful films. 

The story ends happily as Roger and Julia are planning to separate when a call comes from Miss Oliver of the adoption agency, who has another child to place with them, a male child being the exact age and description of their original request years earlier.  This gives the couple renewed strength in their marriage and the fact that they will now have a child to love again.  Their life is complete.  This is a beautiful story and for those who love old films, as I do, this is a must-see.   Without classic film, we would be missing so much that is true in life today and what you rarely find on the screen today,  I absolutely recommend PENNY SERENADE. 

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