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Film / Penny Serenade

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Penny Serenade is a 1941 film directed by George Stevens, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

Julie Adams (Dunne) is packing up her apartment, preparing to leave her husband Roger (Grant), a newspaper publisher. She pulls a phonograph off the shelf, and it reminds her of their first meeting. Their relationship then unspools through a series of flashbacks that dramatize their romance, their marriage, and their various struggles and tragedies, including their attempts to have a family.

The third pairing of Grant and Dunne, after The Awful Truth and My Favorite Wife. One of only two times in his whole career that Grant got an Academy Award nomination (he went 0-for-2).


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Tropes:

  • Artistic License – Medicine: Just how would an injury suffered in an earthquake render a woman infertile? And even if she miscarried, why is she still in a maternity ward in San Francisco, on the other end of a trans-Pacific cruise from Tokyo?
  • Empathy Doll Shot: A single shot of a forgotten doll by the stairs opens the scene in which Roger has to take little Trina to the adoption judge, who is going to take her away.
  • Fat Best Friend: Gentle, doughy Applejack, best pal to handsome Roger. Applejack even follows them to the West Coast to take a job at Roger's little newspaper.
  • Framing Device: Julie pulling records off the shelf and associating them with various milestones in her marriage to Roger, which she recalls via flashbacks.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Just as you couldn't say "pregnant" in the 1940s, you also couldn't say "can't get pregnant", which is why many awkward circumlocutions are employed to let the audience know that Julie can't have a baby.
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  • Infant Immortality: Sadly averted. 6-year-old Trina dies of... well, something (polio?) after a short and sudden illness.
  • Iris Out: An unusual spin on this trope. As Julie plays records on the phonograph, the scene irises in and out to various flashbacks, centered on the label at the center of the record.
  • New Year Has Come: Roger bursts in to a New Year's party with news of his promotion and assignment to his paper's Tokyo bureau. A spur-of-the-moment marriage between Roger and Julie follows.
  • Orphanage of Love: The San Francisco orphanage run by the kindly Miss Oliver, who works hard to find loving homes for her charges.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Roger is helpless after the printing press jams. He asks Applejack for help. Applejack simply thumps it once. It's fixed.
  • Replacement Goldfish: For the happy ending. Roger has announced that he is leaving, unable to bear anything that reminds him of Trina. Roger and Julie are about to go their separate ways when Miss Oliver calls, telling them that she's gotten a new baby, reminiscent of the blue-eyed blond they asked for years ago. Roger and Julie reconcile at this, telling Miss Oliver that they'll be right over.
  • Sleeping Single: A rare aversion for the era, as Roger and Julie are shown sharing a bed. Although married couples in bed together wasn't actually forbidden under The Hays Code, instead being on the supplementary "be careful" list, in practice it hardly ever happened.
  • Snow Means Love: It's snowing as Roger and Julie go out and get a quickie marriage right before Roger has to leave to Tokyo.
  • Time Passes Montage: There's a shot of the masthead of Roger's little newspaper, with the heading "Circulation: 901." Various dates from the paper fly by against a montage of Roger and Applejack writing and printing the news. Then there's another shot of the masthead showing "Circulation: 908", illustrating that despite a long period of hard work, the paper isn't exactly thriving.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: An unusual example as Julie hops on the train and rides with Roger for a little while before she gets off at the next station and they have the conventional chase-the-train goodbye. This results in Julie getting pregnant.

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