Double Wedding, 1937, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Starring Myrna Loy, William Powell. Directed by Richard Thorpe. B&W, 85 minutes.
Margit Agnew (Myrna Loy) is an accomplished, take-charge woman with not only her professional life under control, but her sister Irene’s (Florence Bates) personal life as well. Margit has found a suitable man for Irene to marry, the spineless, yet devoted, Waldo (John Beal).
But Irene has dreams of her own, not the least of which is to become a movie star. She’s connected with the free-spirited Charles Lodge (William Powell), who’s convinced her she’s got what it takes for Hollywood fame and fortune. More than being her mentor, Charles has become the object of Irene’s affection, disrupting Margit’s plan for her sister’s marriage to Waldo.
Margit confronts Charles face-to-face, but she underestimates the bohemian man’s perception and guile.
Double Wedding was the seventh of fourteen Powell/Loy vehicles, and it is one of its weakest. During production, Jean Harlow, girlfriend of Powell’s and close friend of Loy’s, died of kidney failure. Powell requested and received time off. Production shut down for a time, although ultimately the film was completed nearly on schedule. Upon return, both stars, by their own admission, were not at their best.
Despite this, actor John Beal found the production to be a great learning experience. “Bill Powell had a technique, an instinct for comedy timing that kept me in awe all throughout the shooting,” he later said. “He was the consummate professional, never at a loss. I found my own comedy technique sharpening just from playing off him.”
Audiences loved any pairing of Powell and Loy, however, and the movie was well received at the box office. Critics were less enthusiastic, with The New York Times stating “Lunatic comedy hits an all-time high, or low, with Double Wedding.” The film was not completely panned, however, and the review didn’t seem to affect audience opinion.
Whether it was the tragedy of Harlow’s death or problems inherent in the production of the film, Double Wedding doesn’t live up to the standards Powell and Loy had set with their previous films. It is, however, still enjoyable, a film that fans of the incomparable pair will want to see.