Film Review: “Penny Serenade” (1941)


Love. Marriage. Sadness. Great Loss. A young couple have big dreams for a better and carefree life. They leave their quiet and uneventful life for Japan on what they believe will be a big adventure. But all they find is unexpected sadness, unhappiness and struggle on a daily basis, putting in danger everything they have worked for…

PENNY SERENADE begins with Julie (Irene Dunne) who is preparing to leave her husband Roger (Cary Grant). Before doing so, she begins to play through a stack of recordings, which reminds her of events in their life together. One of the tunes says ‘You were meant for me, and I was meant for you’. The film takes the viewer back in time, to a time when the two have just met each other, and at the same place where Julie is now listening to their music. Roger is a young journalist who dreams of having a big life; a life he most likely will never have. He gets an opportunity to move to Japan for two years, and asks Julie to marry him right away. And so she does.

In Japan, we see Roger`s house, which looks like a house of cards. It`s very unstable and in ruins.. This is what happens after the earthquake when Julie loses her not only her house, but her unborn child as well. This is when we start to see, how their marriage, based on love, is about to end. Even though Julie tries her best to save the marriage, she still can`t hide her feelings of disappointment that this is not the life she wanted, and what she wanted, she has already lost –the opportunity to have a child.

While Julie plays through the stack of recordings, the audience gets a chance to understand and sympathize with Julie for her attempts to make their life better together. That desire takes them to an orphanage, where they seek happiness in a little child. From that moment on, it`s hard not to sympathize or watch the film without pity and compassion, as they do their best to bring their happiness back, but it seems, it`s not meant to be…

PENNY SERENADE directed by George Stevens (A PLACE IN THE SUN, GIANT, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK) casts one of America’s most beloved screen couples-Irene Dunne and Carry Grant. And, looking at them, we certainly can tell they were meant to be in every movie they ever played. Throughout their performance, it is easy to recognize how well the actors understand each other, and the characters they portray.

Steven`s film unfolds the anatomy of a marriage, and how low income, as well as one`s ambitions can destroy a little happiness… It is a very sad, sentimental, and unique film in its own way, and while watching it you won`t be able to smile – since it has nothing joyful to offer. But one thing this film can offer is a teaching young couples – the big dream of having a better life is always good to have. But, until you make it happen, don`t forget about the life you have right now, because one day, you will wake up, and all of it will fade away because you were too busy chasing a pipe dream.

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