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Day-time Wife (1939)

(Approved) 72 mins

Synopsis: When a young wife discovers her husband of two years is involved with his beautiful secretary, she applies for a job as secretary to a business rival.

Director: Gregory Ratoff

Writers: Art Arthur (screenplay), Robert Harari (screenplay), Rex Taylor (story), and Sam Hellman (contributor to screenplay (uncredited))

Stars: Tyrone PowerLinda Darnell and Warren William

Serious Jest:  (Worth Watching)  Darnell carried this film.  Not only was she beautiful, but she possessed that “girlfriend quality” that I’ve discussed before in actresses like Jennifer Connelly: Darnell had a way of baring her soul to the camera, which made the viewer feel like he knew her intimately, understood her, and had fallen for her.  The line that struck me the most in this movie was when she declared, after discovering her husband’s extra-marital relationship, “If a woman can’t hold her man, then it’s her own fault…but I’m going to hold mine.”  Many might find that statement to be the product of a stupid woman living in an oppressive society, where male philandering was celebrated, and all of the shame associated with lust was cast upon subservient women.  To the contrary, influenced by the intelligence that Darnell brought to her role, I saw her statement as enlightened.

To me, Darnell’s character, Jane, was owning her marriage and its outcome.  Sure, the easy reaction would have been to back off, be a victim, and accept that the man she loved had divided his attentions from her to someone else.  Instead, Jane looked to herself and attempted to develop the aspects that would make her man not want to stray.  She had not yet decided whether she wanted to stay with him, but she also did not get so caught up in her feelings of betrayal that she lost sight of the facts that her husband loved her, and was motivated by his own feelings and lust, rather than a desire to hurt her.  I’m not trying to downplay the gravity of infidelity, especially marital infidelity, but I can appreciate Jane’s resolve to stay in charge of her own destiny.  In the end, if she was going to lose her husband, it would be because of her own choice, not because some other woman whom she didn’t even know decided to take him.

Ultimately, Jane’s decision regarding whether to stay with her husband would rest with factors like how far he went with this other woman, what his feelings for her were, and whether Jane believed that he would continue to act that way.  These thresholds are different for everyone, and there is no one “right” answer, but I like the idea of not letting the choice be made for you.

All in all, this movie was entertaining enough to hold your attention for its relatively short 71 minutes of run time.  Many of the lines and jokes in it are corny and/or cheesy, and the actions that some of the characters take may annoy you; but it’s worth the time to watch it as a conversation piece, and a glimpse into how different-yet-not-that-different things were 73 years ago.

About Serious Jest

Film & TV Reviewer by Choice, Attorney at Law, Marine to the Corps (excuse the pun), Nupe Under Pressure, and MC by Nature

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