Watching 1939: Four Wives (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:  Four Wives (1939)

Release date:  Dec. 22, 1939

Cast:  Priscilla Lane, Rosemary Lane, Lola Lane, Gale Page, Claude Rains, Jeffrey Lynn, May Robson, Dick Foran, Eddie Albert, Henry O’Neill, Vera Lewis, John Qualen, Hobart Cavanaugh (uncredited), Ruth Tobey (uncredited), Olin Howland (uncredited), George Reeves (uncredited)
Archived information: John Garfield

Studio:  Warner Brothers

Director:  Michael Curtiz

After the death of her husband, Ann (Priscilla Lane) struggles when she learns she is pregnant with his child. She is haunted by his memory, which makes her engagement to Felix (Lynn) difficult and strained. Her sisters Emma (Page) and Thea (Lola Lane) are both trying to become mothers and Kay (Rosemary Lane) falls in love with a young doctor (Albert).

1939 Notes:
• The Lane sisters (Priscilla, Rosemary and Lola) were in two movies together released in 1939. Rosemary Lane was in five films released in 1939, and Lola Lane was in two films released in 1939.
• Priscilla Lane was in five movies released in 1939 and she co-starred with Jeffrey Lynn in four of them: Four Wives, Yes, My Darling Daughter, Daughters Courageous and Roaring Twenties. Jeffrey Lynn was in six films in 1939.
• Gale Page was in six films released in 1939.
• The second in the trilogy of films starring the Lane Sisters and Gail Page. The movies include “Four Daughters” (1938), “Four Wives” (1939) and “Four Mothers” (1941)
• One of four films directed by Michael Curtiz released in 1939.
• Eddie Albert’s third film. Albert made two films in 1939.
• Dick Foran was in four films released in 1939.
• Claude Rains was in five films released in 1939.

Jeffrey Lynn and Priscilla Lane in “Four Wives”

Other trivia: 
• While John Garfield’s character died in “Four Daughters,” he makes an appearance in memories in “Four Wives.”
• Based on a magazine story called “Sister Act” by Fannie Hurst, published in Cosmopolitan magazine.
• In response to the success of “Four Daughters” (1938), “Four Wives” and “Four Mothers” (1941) followed in the trilogy. “Daughters Courageous” was made in 1939 in response to the success of “Four Daughters.” “Daughters Courageous” was not part of the trilogy but had a similar formula and the same cast. Michael Curtiz directed “Four Wives” and “Daughters Courageous” in 1939.
• Michael Curtiz only directed the first two films, “Four Daughters” (1938) and “Four Wives” (1939). “Four Mothers” (1941) was directed by William Keighley.
• Working titles were Family Reunion, Family Affair, American Family and Sister Act.

John Garfield appears briefly in “Four Wives” from clips from “Four Daughters”

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
With the success of “Four Daughters” (1938), starring the Lane Sisters and Gale Page, a few films followed: two more films in the series “Four Wives” and “Four Mothers,” and another separate film “Daughters Courageous.”

Priscilla Lane, Lola Lane, Gail Page, Rosemary Lane in a publicity photo for “Four Wives”

While some film sequels (like some of the Gidget films) aren’t great, “Four Wives” is a good sequel to “Four Daughters.” When I first saw the movie in high school, I remember feeling frustrated that the romance between Priscilla Lane and Jeffrey Lynn wasn’t picture-perfect. However, now I think it makes it more interesting that we see Priscilla Lane’s character struggle with the death of her husband and having his child, though their marriage wasn’t ideal.

However, for me the highlight was Eddie Albert in his third film role and looking as handsome and adorable can be.

While Priscilla Lane and Jeffrey Lynn were in several films together throughout the 1930s and 1940s, 1939 paired them together four times: Four Wives, Yes, My Darling Daughter, Daughters Courageous and Roaring Twenties.

The film has plenty of dramatic moments, but there are also several humorous ones, particularly with May Robson, Eddie Albert. Frank McHugh and Lola Lane.

The film leaves off with the sisters and their new babies, leaving room for a third film: “Four Mothers,” which was the last film pairing of the Lane sisters and Gail Page.

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