In Name Only (1939) Carole Lombard, Cary Grant, Kay Francis, Charles Coburn Movie Review

In Name Only (1939)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Carole Lombard in In Name Only (1939)

To Be and He Hopes Not to Be

When Alec Walker (Cary Grant) married Maida (Kay Francis) he never would have imagined that one day he would despise the money grabbing woman but that she would manipulate his own parents to believe that any marital issues were his entire fault. But things come to a head when Alec meets young widow Julie Eden (Carole Lombard) as he falls for the beautiful but wary young mum of one as she not only doesn't want to be responsible for another woman's unhappiness but quickly realises how scheming Maida can be. With Alec explaining to Julie how manipulative Maida is and how unhappy he is in his marriage he promises to get a divorce so that they can be together. But that is easier said than done.

"In Name Only" is anything but a complicated movie. We have Alec who wants to leave his unhappy marriage to start one with the beautiful Julie but finds his manipulative wife is not going to make things easy leading to despair as things begin to look impossible for Alec and Julie. But "In Name Only" is actually a little bit curious because at times it has a conflicting tone which makes me wonder whether the writing or directing was not strong enough for the actors. Or maybe it was down to this being originally lined up as another Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn movie but after the then failure of "Bringing Up Baby" and Hepburn being labelled "Box Office Poison" she left RKO leaving Grant with someone different to work with.

Cary Grant in In Name Only (1939)

So the curious thing is that "In Name Only" is a drama with some darkness with a situation which leads to Alec really struggling as happiness with Julie is in his grasp but the manipulative Maida makes it feel like there is no hope. But through out the movie you have Grant turning on not just the charm but also that killer combo of charm with humour making several scenes entertaining because of Grant's talent for wise cracks and light hearted responses. Yet it seems out of sync with the movie's darker dramatic storyline and whilst Carole Lombard occasionally feeds off of Grant's delivery with some light hearted acting almost everyone else is in drama mode. It makes "In Name Only" a movie which seems confused between being a romantic comedy and a melodrama with a dark side.

In truth "In Name Only" works but part of me feels that a big slice of that comes from the casting of Cary Grant and Carole Lombard as they bring their own likeable nature to the characters of Alec and Julie that you want to see them together. And to be honest whilst Kay Francis is playing the villain of the movie she does so with a sense of evilness which makes her an entertaining bad woman.

What this all boils down to is that "In Name Only" is entertaining, that is no surprise. But this is a movie which for me feels conflicted in tone with part of it feeling almost like a romantic comedy with Cary Grant turning on the humour but it then turns into a darker melodrama with the two sides conflicting.