Penny Serenade is one of my favorite classic films and it contains the only role for which Cary Grant was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award. (He lost to Gary Cooper in Sergeant York.) This movie has comedic moments, romance, heartbreak, and hope. If you do see it, have a box of kleenaxes with you!
Penny Serenade was released in 1941 by Columbia Pictures. The film was directed by George Stevens, screenplay by Martha Cheavens and Morrie Ryskind, and the film stars Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Edgar Buchanan, Beulah Bondi, Ann Doran, Leonard Willey, Wallis Clark,Walter Soderling, Edmund Elton, 1 year old twins Jane and Joan Biffle, and Eva Lee Kuney.
The film opens with Julie Adams(Irene Dunne) asking her friend Applejack Carney(Edgar Buchanan) to turn off the record he had just put on the record player. Julie and Applejack are standing in an apartment which is all in disarray as many items have been packed up for an obvious move. The song that had begun to play was “You Were Meant for Me” and Julie explains to Applejack that she is leaving Roger(Cary Grant) and that she doesn’t want to listen to that song. After a few moments of quiet reflection, Julie turns the record back on and we then see the movie from a series of flashbacks, all set to recorded songs that meant a lot to Roger and Julie in the earlier, happier times of their relationship.
We see how Julie and Roger met, at a record shop where Julie worked. We see them on dates and falling in love. Roger had told Julie he was going to always be a confirmed bachelor but we see him relenting when the newspaper he works for wants him to work for 3 years in their Japanese news bureau. Roger realizes that he can’t live without Julie in his life and so they marry. When Julie arrives in Japan some months later, she gladly tells Roger that they are expecting a baby. Unfortunately, an earthquake strikes one day and Julie is trapped in their destroyed home, with debris lying on top of her. She is rescued, but the accident has caused her to lose the baby and the doctor also informs she and Roger that future pregnancies won’t be happening for them. Depressed and despondent, the couple re-settle in California(the movie opens in San Francisco) and Roger, with a small inheritance, has bought a small-town newspaper, the Rosalia Courier-Press, where he and Julie can live in the small apartment above the newspaper’s office. Their good friend, Applejack Carney, agrees to come on board and work for the newspaper.
Time goes by and the couple decides that they could adopt a child. After mailing a letter requesting to be adoptive parents, the director of the local orphanage, Mrs. Oliver(Beulah Bondi) comes by for a visit. Mrs. Oliver is at first dismayed by Julie’s cluttered approach to housekeeping but she is glad to see that the apartment has an adorable room set up as a nursery. Julie and Roger inform Mrs. Oliver that they would like to adopt a 2 year old boy because that would be the age of their baby that they lost due to the earthquake and accident. Mrs. Oliver tells the couple that at that moment a 5 week old baby girl is available for adoption, and after they go to the hospital and see the baby, Julie and Roger relent and are permitted to be the baby’s parents on a 1 year probationary period. There are many ups and downs in that year of parenting. Julie is very nervous about giving the baby, whom they’ve named Trina, a bath and in a moving and tender scene, good old Applejack takes charge and teaches the two nervous parents how to bathe a baby.
The newspaper is floundering financially and despite Roger’s efforts, the business may be lost and so might the chance to be appointed Trina’s permanent parents. It is in a scene with the judge presiding over the adoption that Grant performs his Best Actor nominated scene-grab those kleenaxes!!! 8 years fly by and Trina is preparing for her part as the star in the school’s Christmas program. The newspaper is still in business, not rolling in buckets of money for Roger and Julie, but enough for their family of 3 to live on.
Tragedy soon strikes again, and I won’t reveal anymore about the movie’s plot because I want viewers to seek it out! There is a happy ending, I can reassure you of that! Penny Serenade will be aired on September 30th at 6:00 a.m.(EST)/5:00 a..m.(CST) on Turner Classic Movies so set that dvr machine. It is also available on Amazon.com and it is also available to rent through Netflix. For an excellent classic movie to view, especially to see Cary Grant’s award nominated performance, don’t hesitate to see Penny Serenade.