Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, and Kay Francis in In Name Only (1939)



(director: John Cromwell; screenwriters: from the novel Memory of Love by Bessie Breuer/Richard Sherman; cinematographer: J. Roy Hunt; editor: William Hamilton; music: Roy Webb; cast: Carole Lombard (Julie Eden), Cary Grant (Alec Walker), Kay Francis (Maida Walker), Charles Coburn (Richard Walker), Helen Vinson (Mrs. Suzanne Ducross), Katharine Alexander (Mrs. Laura Morton), Peggy Ann Garner (Ellen Eden), Jonathan Hale (Dr. Gateson), Nella Walker (Mrs. Grace Walker); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George Haight; RKO Radio Pictures; 1939)

“… a well-made refined tearjerker melodrama that would have profited more as a screwball comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John Cromwell (“Spitfire”/”Made for Each Other”) helms a well-made refined tearjerker melodrama that would have profited more as a screwball comedy. It’s based on the novel Memory of Love by Bessie Breuer and written by Richard Sherman. It’s the third and last pic that Carole Lombard and Cary Grant appeared in together, but the first in which they were involved as lovers. Former star Kay Francis gets third billing in her declining career and nearly steals the pic as Cary’s bitchy wife, as this film plays as her comeback.

While horseback riding near his Connecticut estate, handsome, wealthy and unhappily married businessman Alec Walker (Cary Grant) meets pretty commercial artist widow Julie Eden (Carole Lombard) who’s fishing in a stream that has no fish. On their next stream meeting, Alec meets Julie’s cute 5-year-old daughter Ellen (Peggy Ann Garner) and later in her house Julie’s hostile divorced sister Laura (Katharine Alexander) makes her man-hating presence felt. Falling madly in love with the uncomplicated and sweet Julie runs into a snag when Alec’s heartless wife, Maida (Kay Francis), who never loved him but married for money, schemes to prevent him from getting a divorce. Maida goes on a long ocean voyage with Alec’s parents, Grace and Richard Walker (Nella Walker and Charles Coburn), but fails to get a divorce overseas as promised hubby. Returning home on Christmas Eve, Maida goes into her wicked witch act and things get settled as Alec is ailing from pneumonia and the doctor treating him says his sickness is more mental than physical—that all he needs to recover is some good news. The crowd-pleasing tacked on happy ending is totally absurd.

What this hokey soap opera needed as a medicine to recover from its doldrums were a few laughs, as all the mush was hard to take. But it could have been worse if the Lombard role went to the stagy Katherine Hepburn as originally planned, which she didn’t get when the studio reconsidered and decided she was “Box Office Poison.” Lombard has no comic lines, but does a decent job in not getting too hysterical in her catfight with Francis and is pleasant and convincing enough to believe that a love hungry Cary will be running after her to save his soul.