First Hundred Years The (1938)

First Hundred Years The (1938)

Though the title is rather nebulous this comedy drama begins as a somewhat early look at the concept of a wife as the breadwinner in a marriage and evolves into a lighthearted exploration of the traditional (sex) roles. In fact Robert Montgomery plays David Conway who’s essentially a kept husband by his wife Lynn Claymore Conway played by Virginia Bruce. Lynn is a successful New York-based theatrical agent who works under contract for Harry Borden played by Warren William. When David finally gets his dream job (paying $15000/year!) designing and building ships for a company based in Connecticut a conflict arises – he expects her to drop her career and move while she refuses and digs in her heels. The discussions between the two about this conflict as they examine their feelings and themselves are the best scenes in the picture. The film was directed by Richard Thorpe and produced by Norman Krasna (Fury (1936)) who also wrote the story which was adapted by Melville Baker.

Binnie Barnes plays Borden’s “man-eating” friend Claudia Weston who along with an old college buddy of David’s George Wallace (played by Lee Bowman) date the now separated couple David & Lynn respectively. Borden is supportive of Lynn and engages his lawyer Sam Walker (Alan Dinehart) to protect her interests but Judge Parker (Jonathan Hale) awards David through his lawyer Bill Regan (Donald Briggs) an unprecedented “alimony” because Lynn’s salary was greater than her husband’s. Naturally this outrages Lynn. Harry Davenport plays Lynn’s Uncle Dawson who visits with his nurse (Nydia Westman) because of his weak heart before he’s to leave on a round-the-world cruise. E.E. Clive plays a difficult client of Borden’s Chester Blascomb who Lynn is able to temporarily soothe. Torben Meyer & Bodil Rosing play Karl & Martha Lynn’s butler & maid respectively. Irving Bacon plays Wilkins a substitute butler who’s actually working for Walker as a spy to get the “alimony” cancelled.

*** SPOILERS ***

Because of Uncle Dawson’s visit David agrees to pretend to still be happily married to Lynn. Together again under one roof and aided by a convenient thunderstorm (she’s scared and he comforts her) they begin what appears to be a reconciliation (actually he falls on his sword) until Uncle Dawson discovers Wilkins spying on them and the truth of his purpose is revealed. Now David is the one who’s outraged and disillusioned. The ending is both predictable and sexist. Of course the couple gets back together in the end. Uncle Dawson helps Lynn realize what she’s losing but the capper is her finding out that she’s pregnant. So after one final misstep (and the film-maker’s attempt at some additional suspense) she gives up her career to move to Connecticut with David who will now support them.

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