By Edwin Jahiel
MADE FOR EACH OTHER (1939). Directed by John Cromwell. About young marrieds Carole Lombard and James Stewart. He is lawyer in big firm run by insensitive, deaf, irritating Charles Coburn, and hopes to become a junior partner. He's just married Lombard, coup de foudre on trip to Boston. But the boss' daughter apparently has expectations (this is played down).
Stewart lives with mother Lucile Watson, an unpleasant and disapproving woman. He and Lombard keep her. They go through hard financial times .
Even when they invite Coburn, daughter and he new beau (also in firm) things go badly as the maid wants her money and quits in mid-meal and Coburn announces another junior partner. Mess is added on by the exploiting Coburn who cuts all salaries by 25% just when Stewart was about to ask for a raise. (And he overhears Coburn buying real estate!). By New Year's eve the couple is broke, Ma sniffles and plays the martyr, Lombard explodes and tells her off, they argue, the man (Stewart's rival) who invited them to a party stands them up. Only their former, wonderful black maid (dismissed earlier for lack of emoluments) shows up with a basket of chicken and wine. The couple go to a club, are miserable. Suddenly their baby is dying of pneumonia. Ma rallies around, becomes human. A plane is needed to fly serum from Utah to New York. (There had been diphteria epidemic in Salt Lake City and all the medicine was there). Stewart goes to Coburn, wakes him up, cries out his plea for help. Coburn immediately gives $5,000. Ward Bond, in small role, refuses to fly in impossible weather but another pilot, lured by $5,000 -and presumably by the mercy flight idea-- offers to split with Bond if latter gives him the plane. He flies an old open cockpit biplane. Radio dies. You think the plane has crashed. No, it's alive! But now motor conks out, flames pour out, pilot parachutes, is found , clutching the serum, by farmer. Cut to baby --saved. Cut to Stewart made a partner, telling the others (in firm but vague terms) he'll make major changes in this old-fashioned firm. Everyone goos and loves the baby.
The sudden changes in all, especially Coburn and Ma, are incredible.
Stewart overdoes his mannerisms of being embarrassed, apologetic, mumbling-fumbling. He's the perennial gawky-talkie. Yet this melodrama, as directed by competent John Cromwell, sort of works. It is also another proof that Lombard could do sentiment just as well as the screwball comedy she was mostly famous for. (Edwin Jahiel)
[Written Sept. 1990]