Watching 1939: Remember?

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.

1939 film: Remember? (1939)

Release date: Dec. 14, 1939

Cast:
Robert Taylor, Greer Garson, Lew Ayres, Billie Burke, Reginald Owen, George Barbier, Henry Travers, Richard Carle, Laura Hope Crews, Sig Ruman, Sara Haden

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: Norman Z. McLeod

Plot:
Sky (Ayres) is engaged to Linda (Garson), but Linda falls in love with his best friend of 21 years, Jeff (Taylor). Jeff and Linda get married, and when things aren’t working out, Sky tests an amnesia drug on the couple.

1939 Notes:
• 1939 was Greer Garson’s first year in Hollywood. This was her second film of the year after “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.” “Mr. Chips” had been made in Great Britain, so “Remember?” was Garson’s first American-made film.
• Robert Taylor was in three films released in 1939
• Lew Ayres was in six films released in 1939.

Other trivia:
• A newcomer to Hollywood, while filming this movie Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. Garson and her mother, Nina, weren’t sure if they should return home but the consulate told them to stay in Hollywood, according to the book A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson by Michael Troyan
• Robert Young was supposed to star in the role instead of Robert Taylor, according to the book Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector by Lesley L. Coffin
• Garson had tea every afternoon on the film’s set for her co-stars.

Lew Ayres, Greer Garson and Robert Taylor in “Remember?” (1939)

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
I hadn’t seen this film since high school, and I remembered very little about “Remember?” It’s almost funny that part of the plot is about amnesia because even after rewatching the movie, it’s so forgettable I’m having a hard time forming my thoughts about it.

I don’t remember initially liking it, and unfortunately, I’m still not its biggest fan.

This movie has the right equation: MGM glamour, great lead actors, and excellent supporting cast. But somehow the math doesn’t add up, which is disappointing.

It was also a disappointing film for Greer Garson as she was starting her acting career in America.

This year was important to Greer Garson. In 1939, she starred in her first Hollywood film, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (which was filmed in England) and was praised for a job-well-done in this role.

Because of the critical acclaim, she was rushed into the comedy “Remember?,” which was her first movie filmed in America. For her second film being introduced to American audiences, “Remember?” was disappointing and was met with bad reviews. New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther said the movie left him with “feelings of mingled sadness and regret” after the high hopes of “Mr. Chips.” Critics were uncertain about her future in Hollywood and if “Mr. Chips” was just a fluke, but we now have the benefit of knowing that wasn’t the case. “Remember?” is just a lousy script.

Lew Ayres and Robert Taylor are both fine in the roles, but this isn’t a standout film for either. By 1939, Ayres was successful with his Dr. Kildare role, and Taylor had been a star at MGM for a few years. While this movie wasn’t a glowing success for any of the stars, they had fun together on set (which is always nice to hear), and Garson would serve afternoon tea, according to the book A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson by Michael Troyan.

While this is a comedy, the only moments I thought were funny were with Billie Burke, while playing her usual dizzy roles. While Garson did comedy on stage, she doesn’t sparkle as much as she does in her later comedies like “Julia Misbehaves.” This could be because it was only her second film (and the script was lousy).

It’s odd that this movie is supposed to be about amnesia when this is really only a plot point for the last 30 or 40 minutes of the 83-minute film. And the film ends without really providing any solution for the current issue.

“Remember?” is important regarding 1939 and the career of Greer Garson. However, it’s so forgettable, you’ll think that you also took some of Lew Ayres’s amnesia drug.

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