John Cromwell’s Made for Each Other (1939) is an effective – if slightly conflicted - melodrama. It stars resident scatterbrain, Carole Lombard and congenial James Stewart as Jane and John Mason – Mr. and Mrs. America of any year. But the couple is on a whirlwind romance to nowhere. Disapproving in-laws (Lucille Watson as nattering mother-in-law, Harriet Mason and Charles Coburn as John’s employer, Judge Doolittle) intercede in John and Jane’s idyllic domestic paradise. Financial stresses brought on by a change at work eventually culminated in a devastating illness and near death experience.
Generally, the best of Hollywood’s filmic output can reconcile all these varying degrees of immediacy with nonchalance. But on this occasion, the film’s structure is problematic. It begins as idealist romantic comedy and is quite enjoyable as such. But then it suddenly veers toward melodrama bordering on Greek tragedy. The ‘feel good’ reprise at the end seems more tacked on to satisfy Hollywood’s then, reigning edicts listed in the production code of ethics, rather than plausible denouement.
Director John Cromwell spins a cinematic tapestry of lives that are the embodiment of those proverbial ups and downs we all encounter in life. But his sprite and accessible direction slightly falters in his valiant attempt to allow the story’s sensitive charm and poignancy of secondary characters their chance to shine. Though the effervescent triumph of the human spirit is never far from Cromwell’s vision for the film, it’s ultimately that old fashioned sentiment that salvages the whole affair from becoming overly sweet.
MGM’s DVD falls into the fair range of quality. The B&W picture exhibits a balanced gray scale with reasonably smooth, solid blacks and very clean whites. Age related artifacts are present but do not distract. Some minor edge enhancement crops up and there is more than a hint of pixelization in infrequent spots but overall the picture will surely not disappoint. The audio is mono but more than adequate for a film of this vintage. There are no extras.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)