This Time for Keeps (1942)

This Time for Keeps (1942)

Much like a B movie version of the Andy Hardy series (unless of course one deems that a B movie series) this follow-up comedy drama (using some of the same actors if not the same surnamed characters) to the Herman J. Mankiewicz story Keeping Company (1940) “feels” much like an hour long (1950’s era e.g. unsophisticated) syndicated television family sitcom. It was directed by Charles Reisner with a screenplay from Muriel Roy Bolton Rian James and Harry Ruskin (who was a contributing writer on three of the Hardy series films). Ann Rutherford (also from the Hardy series) Irene Rich and Virginia Weidler appear in both films. The cast in this one also includes Robert Sterling Guy Kibbee Henry O’Neill and Connie Gilchrist among others. Ava Gardner is said to play the uncredited girl who appears in the car next to Sterling’s character at the drive-in.

When his newlywed wife Kit (Rutherford) must travel out-of-town to be a bridesmaid in another wedding Lee White (Sterling) finally gets some time alone but finds that a night on the town with his old buddy (who is now married with children) is not to be had. His friendly & knowing father-in-law Harry Bryant (Kibbee) drops by and offers Lee the chance to stay with his family while his daughter’s away. Lee accepts whereupon he receives hotel guest-like treatment from his in-laws: good food a newspaper in the morning and no other (clean up) responsibilities. Rich plays Lee’s mother-in-law Weidler his kid sister-in-law Harriett (responsible for the film’s comic relief). Lee shows his appreciation to amiable Harry by finally accepting his father-in-law’s offer to become a partner in his real estate firm in lieu of continuing to sell used cars. He’d been apprehensive at first believing that he should make it on his own. Soon after he starts working for Harry Lee regrets his decision because his father-in-law micro-manages at every opportunity. This not only frustrates Lee but their secretary Miss Nichols (Gilchrist) as well. Naturally Kit can’t understand Lee’s attitude believing her kindly well meaning father to be a saint and her husband ungrateful nor can Lee adequately express his feelings to his father-in-law in the matter. For his part Harry can’t keep from interfering in Lee’s business affairs ruining his son-in-law’s first big potential deal with candy maker Arthur Freeman (O’Neill).

There are several frustrating (for this viewer) interactions between the principal characters where misunderstandings poor communications and frayed emotions dominate the proceeding. A dinner at the White’s home for Mr. Freeman in which Kit’s health food meal is switched for her mother’s pot roast is too contrived setting up a line later spoken by O’Neill’s character (e.g. regarding too many cooks in the kitchen). There’s even a third daughter Edith played by Dorothy Morris whose boyfriend Eustance (Richard Crane) gets more screen-time than she does in a less than humorous subplot involving Harriett who calls him “Useless”. Plus by now Weidler seems too old for her character who’s much more advanced (and at sixteen certainly much taller) than her 12 year old playmate Milton Jones (Joe Strauch Jr.). The most entertaining scenes however are those in which Kibbee’s character finds himself muttering “you’ll never catch a child of mine doing something like that” when of course unbeknownst to him it’s his daughter Harriett (Weidler) that’s the target of his comment. At an evening trivia contest Harriett wins some soap in lieu of the $10 she needs to impress Useless. In the end the “tried and true” masquerade ball plot device is employed to enable one character to unknowingly say their peace to another that needs to hear it (e.g. Lee to Harry) and O’Neill’s character has another scene as well. Naturally everything works out for the best.

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