A wise man once observed: “Youth is wasted on the wrong people.” (Come to think of it, I believe it was the cranky old fart [Dick Elliott] on the front porch in It’s a Wonderful Life .) But that’s not the film I want to discuss today—and what’s more, that adage certainly doesn’t apply to I Met My Love Again (1938), in which college sweethearts Julie Weir (Joan Bennett) and Ives Towner (Henry Fonda) are so crazy in love Julie wants to get married as quickly as the state law will allow. Ives, however, is hesitant; he’s not prepared to make a home for his fiancée until he’s sure he’s not a “nobody.” “I want to be important enough for you,” Ives tells his lady love. “And, Julie…if you wait for me, I will be. Maybe I’m just young and foolish but I want our love to be something different. Something great. Something… holy. Julie, you will wait for that?”
Apparently, the statute of limitations on waiting where Julie’s concerned is two years; one winter night, she “meets cute” a charming writer named Michael Shaw (Alan Marshal)…and before the projectionist has a chance to switch to the next reel, the two of them marry and are off to Paris. (Ah, Paree…) Once ensconced in the “City of Lights,” Michael’s writing gives way to frolicking and partying like it’s 1929…and while he and Julie attend a soiree one evening, he is mortally wounded in a duel. (The guy that croaks him, incidentally, is TDOY fave Henry Brandon.) Because she’s unable to find employment as a fashion designer (she can’t get a work permit), seven years later Julie is flat broke with a young daughter (Genee Hall) to support; Julie’s child is also named Michael, after her dear departed father.
Julie’s Aunt William (Dame May Whitty)—this family seems to have a curious affinity for bestowing females with masculine names—coaxes her into returning home (Lynnboro, Vermont), wiring her the needed travel money and hoping that she’ll rekindle the flame with Ives. Towner is now a biology professor at their alma mater…and still a little bitter about Julie’s abandoned promise to wait for him. Their second chance at reconciliation is further threatened, however, when one of Ives’ students—wealthy Brenda Wayne (Louise Platt)—sets her cap for her instructor. Quel complications!
I Met My Love Again is an excellent candidate for “Overlooked Films on Tuesday” (admittedly, I’ve been a little remiss in keeping this feature going since the move to WordPress) because I’ll be honest with you: until David Kawas at ClassicFlix asked me to contribute the back notes for the company’s DVD release (it’s out today, cartooners!) I wasn’t all that familiar with the movie. David warned me going in that the movie was a bit on the melodramatic side…and he wasn’t exaggerating, either. But I found to my surprise that IMMLA is a most enjoyable little feature despite it not being my usual movie meat.
Allene Corliss’ 1936 novel Summer Lightning—also serialized in Hearst’s International-Cosmopolitan—attracted the attention of producer Walter Wanger, who assigned David Hertz to adapt Corliss’ book into a screenplay and Arthur Ripley and Joshua Logan to direct. (A couple of sources report that George Cukor handled a few of I Met My Love Again’s scenes, though Cukor did not receive onscreen credit.) Logan was a well-known theatrical director (who worked with both star Henry Fonda and his pal James Stewart in earlier stage productions) and wouldn’t sit in the chair for another feature film until 1955’s Picnic, an adaptation of the stage play Josh did on Broadway in 1953/54.
An article in the Hollywood Reporter before filming got underway on I Met My Love Again noted that Brian Aherne (last seen here on the blog in Merrily We Live ) was originally scheduled to appear in IMMLA but it’s uncertain as to whether he was to play the Henry Fonda role or Alan Marshal’s part. I’d speculate that Aherne was probably considered for Michael Shaw only because the Shaw character is English…and since Fonda had appeared in so many previous films produced by Wanger (including Trail of the Lonesome Pine  and You Only Live Once ) odds are he was in the running as the leading man from the very start. Fonda was still finding his footing as a movie actor by this point in his career, but he makes Ives a likable sort even when he’s catting around with the younger Brenda (there’s never a moment in the film when you doubt he’s still carrying a torch for Julie—it’s all going to come out in the wash).
The leading lady is Joan Bennett (still a blonde in this one), who made quite a few motion pictures with Wanger. (I’m sure there’s a reason for this.) I’m a fan of Joan’s even when she’s not playing the femme fatale, and some of her early “fair-haired” features are fun to watch, like Bulldog Drummond (1929) and Mississippi (1935). I’m never completely convinced that she’s experiencing financially crippling times after the death of Michael (for someone who’s not able to work she still manages to hang onto a maid) but you have to make those allowances for the movies, I suppose. (Audiences might get a little freaked out watching Julie and her kid scrounge for food in trash cans, for example.)
Admittedly, the acting strengths in I Met My Love Again are to be found in the supporting players; if there’s a movie where Dame May Whitty gives a bad performance I’ve yet to come across it, but I got the biggest kick out of Florence Lake’s amusing turn as Fonda’s sister (Carol) and seeing one of W.C. Fields’ nemeses, Elise Cavanna, as a household drudge. (Lake’s “brother” from the Edgar Kennedy shorts, Jack Rice, also has a small role as a professor…and there are bits from the previously mentioned Brandon and future Bowery Boy William “Billy” Benedict.) Louise Platt makes her movie debut with the ingenue role as the co-ed who tries to get between Bennett and Fonda (Wanger would later use Platt in 1939’s Stagecoach); IMMLA also features Tim Holt (out of the saddle) as her jealous boyfriend.
Lensed in the Franklin Canyon area of Los Angeles, I Met My Love Again is a romantic love story that may not contain too many surprises yet still manages to be entertaining even for the most jaded and cynical among us. The second release in ClassicFlix’s no-frills Silver Series, IMMLA is a worthy addition to any classic movie lovers’ library.