Year: 1939
Director: Tay Garnett
Cast: Loretta Young, David Niven, Broderick Crawford, Billie Burke, Eve Arden, Hugh Herbert, C. Aubrey Smith, Virginia Field, Zasu Pitts, Raymond Walburn

Eternally Yours was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid, and it was one of the first classic movies that I really, really loved. It had been about 10 years since I’d last seen it, despite the fact that I’ve owned it on DVD for several years now (it came with The Greeks Had a Word for Them). So yesterday I decided to pop it into the DVD player. And then I proceeded to ruin my childhood memories.

Anita (Young) is getting ready to marry Don (Crawford) when she meets charming and committed magician Tony (Niven). The two fall in love and marry. Anita goes on the road with Tony’s act, even performing in his show with him. But his stunts become more and more dangerous to please his devoted crowd, and Anita can no longer take it.  She divorces him, and to get over the heartache, she marries Don. But of course Anita can’t escape Tony for long, and not long after her wedding they’re stuck at the same party together.

It’s not that Eternally Yours is a bad movie.  It’s not. It’s just not all that great, and certainly not as great as I remembered it being. Looking at it now with the eye of someone who’s been studying film for so long, I can easily see its many faults. Which are as follows…

The film has a wonderful supporting cast in C. Aubrey Smith, Eve Arden, Bille Burke, and Zasu Pitts, but they are all under-utilized. Arden, Smith, and Burke seem to disappear half-way through the film, which adds to the feeling that there are two very different types of films going on.

Yes, there is a huge tonal/content shift halfway through the movie once Anita and Tony are divorced that is jarring. The first half is actually very charming, and is easily the best part of the movie. Niven and Young have good chemistry, and the story of a daring magician who’s torn between his commitment to his fans and his commitment to his wife makes for a very interesting love story. Had this simple premise been pulled out a little more, it would have made for a very charming romance.

But then it shifts halfway through to become a remarriage comedy. Which is a big mistake, because the best remarriage comedies are the ones that build the premise of the remarriage from very early in the film. (There are exceptions to this of course, like Sturges’ The Lady Eve.) This remarriage comedy falls flat on its face because it’s given very little time to breathe or develop. This whole aspect of the film feels very rushed.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie, and perhaps if I hadn’t loved it so much when I was young I may have enjoyed it a little more this time around. But as it is, I feel like I just destroyed a very important part of my childhood film experience.

By Katie Richardson

Advertisements