I’ll Be Yours (1947) is an uneven film which seeks to blend farce and high drama seamlessly but does not quite succeed, leaving the audience with the feeling of having seen two separate movies at once. (Tom has made his notes and outlined the plot here.)(Update: Mark has made some wonderfully perceptive points about this film in the comments.)
A FARCE AND A DRAMA
I’ll Be Yours is a Felix Jackson adaptation of The Good Fairy (1935) - the Preston Sturges adaptation of Ferenc Molnár’s play, A jó tündér. The play concerns a libertine woman who enjoys helping strangers. In both the original film and in Jackson’s adaptation, the protagonist is instead an innocent young woman who goes to the big city, helps others and potentially falls prey to lechers. But whereas the The Good Fairy makes its two leads guileless individuals who discover the complexities of life together, the Jackson script makes attorney George Prescott (Tom Drake)a grave character throughout and usherette Luisa (Deanna Durbin) a child-like figure who never grows up.
Because the two leads are locked into their respective modes, never changing, I’ll Be Yours feels a bit uneven as it tries to balance the improbable comic scenes involving carefree Luisa, and the scenes of hard-bitten, suspicious Prescott as he broods over society’s moral decay. These are people from two different genres who seem to live in parallel stories by happenstance. You wonder what attracts them to each other.
The schizoid tones in this film might be a reflection of the changing mood in movies after World War Two. The can-do spirit during the war years (typified by Durbin‘s brand) gave way to the slog of picking up the pieces of a broken, fatigued and increasingly cynical world... at least in the movies. Drake plays an attorney with high moral character and dramatic constancy - his expression askance at any offer; his brow furrowed during any inquisition; his voice raised in righteous indignation as he discovers his new employer's shady deals. The performance is something right out of Judgment at Nuremberg!
Luisa, however, is more concerned with shaving Prescott’s beard.
There is a dichotomy in the music as well. Musical director Heinz Roemheld brings together a score that seems left over from his work in silent films. Relentless music underlines the comic action, winking at the audience throughout the dialogue as if it were a Bugs Bunny short, a noisy score that is noticeably absent during the dramatic scenes involving Drake. The abrupt shift in tone unintentionally helps further drive a wedge between the two stories, making the perfunctory love scenes nearly implausible.
TWO STARS PLAGUED BY YOUTH
The busy, young Deanna Durbin, had a bit of time after the January release of her previous film Because of Him (1946) to give birth to her first child, Jessica Louise Jackson, on February 7, 1946 and recuperate for her next venture. I’ll Be Yours was filmed in mid-August to mid-October 1946 and released on February 2, 1947. This is her first post-pregnancy film and yet, that legendary Durbin youthfulness makes her appear about ten years younger than her twenty-five years.
By this time, Universal Studios’ "Little Miss Fix It" was having marital problems and had seperated from Felix Jackson the month before the release of I‘ll Be Yours. In addition to having written the screenplay for the film, Jackson was also the producer. Durbin blamed the constant close proximity to her husband, the resultant lack of conversation at home and Jackson’s ambivalence towards remaining married to anyone as the reason for their parting ways. The couple would divorce two years later. Much to her chagrin, the elixir of youth coursing through the star’s veins helped to proliferate the ingénue roles which were constantly thrown in Ms. Durbin‘s direction, despite her clearly adult personal life.
Tom Drake, born Alfred Sinclair Alderdice, was a theater-trained actor whose career in feature films would hit a dry patch not too long after I‘ll Be Yours. His best known movie, Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), was behind him, as was his first and only marriage. In a year he would star as the youthful version of composer Richard Rodgers in Words and Music (1948), but his acclaimed performance was overshadowed by Mickey Rooney’s dark and dramatic portrayal of lyricist Lorenz Hart. Within two years Drake would be out of his contract with MGM studios and would concentrate on theater and television.
Similar to the plight of his I’ll Be Yours co-star, Drake’s youthful appearance often slated him for insubstantial but charming film roles as the boy next door, which was a source of frustration for the Broadway performer. Drake’s cerebral presence, turned-down mouth and furrowed brow was far better suited to, for instance, his portrayal of crafty Leonard Vole in television’s Lux Video Theater production of Witness For The Prosecution (1953).
- I’ll Be Yours is not all gloom and missteps. The songstress gives a stirring rendition of “Granada” - words and music by Augustin Lara; sings a lovely ballad “It’s Dreamtime” and funny little ra-ra song “Cobbleskill School Song” - lyrics by Jack Brook music by Walter Schumann; and a beautiful waltz “Love’s Own Sweet Song” - lyrics by Catherine Chisho, Cushing and E.P. Heath , music by Emmerich Kalman.
- Deanna Durbin appeared with Frederic March in the Screen Guild Theater production of The Good Fairy in the radio broadcast from July 31, 1944. (Source: archive.org)
(Duration: approximately 30 minutes)
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