Watching 1939: Day-Time Wife (1939)

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:  Day-Time Wife (1939)

Release date:  Nov. 24, 1939

Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Warren William, Binnie Barnes, Wendy Barrie, Joan Davis, Leonid Kinskey, Joan Valerie, Renie Riano, Marie Blake (uncredited)

Studio:  20th Century Fox

Director:  Gregory Ratoff

Jane (Darnell) finds out her husband Ken (Power) is stepping out with his secretary Kitty (Barrie) on their second anniversary. Jane decides to become a secretary herself to find out why husbands go after their secretaries. Her boss is architect Barney Dexter (William), who takes more than a professional interest in her.

1939 Notes:
• Linda Darnell’s second film. Darnell made two films in 1939: “Day-Time Wife” and “Hotel for Women.” Darnell was only 16.
• Warren William was in four films released in 1939.
• Tyrone Power was in five films released in 1939.

Other trivia: 
• The first of four films Linda Darnell and Tyrone Power made together.
• The role was supposed to go to Loretta Young, but she rejected the role because she would have second billing.

Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Warren William, Wendy Barrie

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
By 1939, Tyrone Power was one of 20th Century Fox’s top stars. But his co-star Linda Darnell was just at the start of her career.

In only her second film and at age 16, Linda Darnell co-starred with Power in “Day-Time Wife.” This would make 1939 a pivotal year for Darnell and would mark when she started her career and became a star (similar to others whose fame rose like Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr, etc.).

Though Darnell was playing an adult role, since she was a teenager, she still had to follow the studio labor rules of going to school on set.

“I would be kissing Tyrone Power, and the school teacher would come and tell me it was time for my history lesson. I never before or since have been so embarrassed,” Darnell later said in an interview.

Power’s career began in 1936, and he was already a top, established star in Hollywood in 1939.

Actor Warren William co-stars and by this point he was not only an established star but would only have 10 years left in Hollywood. Usually playing a cad or a rake, William started playing credited roles in Hollywood’s pre-code era in 1931 and usually played a jerk you loved to love. His charm usually overshadowed the truly dastardly character he was portraying. William plays a downplayed version of pre-code self in “Day-Time Wife.” He is unfaithful to his wife as he makes plays for his young secretary (incidentally, he was 29 years older than Darnell).

This film also includes two actresses I sometimes confuse: Binnie Barnes (as Darnell’s cynical divorcee friend) and Wendy Barrie (as Power’s secretary). Comedian Joan Davis also has a role as a secretary in Darnell’s office, and her part is sadly very small.

By 2018 standards, this film would be criticized. Today, it’s frowned upon to have relations with your secretary (a position that is usually called “project coordinator” now), and wives wouldn’t so easily forgive their husbands for dalliances.

But “Day-Time Wife” is still cute with amusing comedic scenes. I feel like what really makes this film enjoyable is the cast. Darnell and Power are bursting with youth and so unbelievably beautiful. And Warren William, with his velvet voice, maybe wanting to cheat on his wife with his young secretary, but you aren’t mad at him for it because it’s Warren William.

As an aside, I also want to mention the title card of this film, where figures (presumably Darnell and Power) are dancing behind the credits.

Without purchasing them, 20th Century Fox films can be hard to come by, because they aren’t often aired on TV or streaming in many locations. I rented “Day-Time Wife” from DVD Netflix and was happy for the opportunity to revisit this film, and also explore more of Tyrone Power’s work.

While “Day-Time Wife” is a fun film, it is also more important that it started the career rolling for Linda Darnell.

Disclaimer: I subscribe to DVD Netflix and earn rewards from DVD Nation.


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