Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + + +)

June 27, 2020, I Take This Woman

This week’s mystery movie was the 1940 MGM film “I Take This Woman,” with Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr, Verree Teasdale, Kent Taylor, Laraine Day, Mona Barrie, Jack Carson, Paul Cavanagh, Louis Calhern, Frances Drake, Marjorie Main, George E. Stone, Willie Best, Don Castle, Dalies Frantz and Reed Hadley.

Screenplay by James Kevin McGuinness from a story by Charles MacArthur.

Musical score by Bronislau Kaper and Arthur Guttmann, recording by Douglas Shearer, art direction by Cedric Gibbons and Paul Groesse, set decorations by Edwin B. Willis, gowns by Adrian, photography by Harold Rosson, edited by George Boemler.

Directed by W.S. Van Dyke II

“I Take This Woman” is available on DVD from Warner Archive.

I picked “I Take This Woman” based on the review in Showmen’s Trade Review (Feb. 3, 1940), which said:

Spencer Tracy gives one of his substantial and interesting performances and makes the heroic part more convincing than the author has written it. Hedy Lamarr, of course, is a vision of loveliness. No great demands are made by her part for emotional acting, but she will hold the interest of patrons everywhere for the woman who is enslaved by a consuming love which stands between her and the husband she respects and admires so greatly. The pattern of the plot is along lines now familiar and therefore there are no outstanding dramatic moments. But Tracy’s performance gives the picture a quality of interest which will make the film generally satisfying on that score. It is the type of story which finds its greatest appeal to women, and with both men and women sensible of the Lamarr charm and beauty, the picture therefore rates as a special attraction.

OK, as I discovered in previewing the film, the review got it way wrong. I am something of a fan of bad films, but I had never heard of this one until now. Having watched it twice, I have no desire to ever see it again, except as an example of how one film gets so many things wrong.

This is a heavy-handed “message” film from a story by Charles MacArthur titled “New York Cinderella,” which has apparently never been published, but survives in a 1938 synopsis by Ben Hecht  in Hecht’s papers at the Newberry Library, in case anyone is curious.

The message is that wealthy New Yorkers are snobby hypocrites while the plain folks of one of New York’s ethnic neighborhoods are simple and honest. Dr. Karl Decker (Tracy) operates a clinic among the city’s masses and has a “meet cute” with uptown beauty Georgi Gregore (Lamarr) when he stops her from jumping off an ocean liner carrying them back to the U.S. They fall in love, but the romance is complicated by her wealthy former flame, now rid of his snobby wife and eager to hook up. Under the influence of his wife’s rich friends, Decker abandons the old, ragged gang on the Eastside in favor of the carriage trade, who mainly deliver cutting comments to one another at swank nightspots, but after the predictable troubles among the wealthy, Dr. and Mrs. Decker reaffirm their marriage and return to the true people – poor but honest. Cue the chorus.

I won’t get into the production history of “I Take This Woman,” often called “I Retake This Woman,” as reflected by the massive number of people who were cut from the finished film. The result is a testament to a studio’s determination to make a picture regardless of its merits.

Tracy is all wrong for this movie, which may be the worst he ever made. I’m not sure anybody could carry off this script as a serious drama rather than a comedy. Melvyn Douglas comes to mind but even he might have trouble. Lamarr’s role is dismal and she makes the best of an absolutely thankless job. Even though Tracy is badly miscast and even though he hated the script, he still turned in a professional performance.

Frank S. Nugent, writing in the New York Times (Feb. 16, 1940) did not approve of such goings-on:

After all it has gone through, it’s little wonder “I Take This Woman” can barely drag itself across the Music Hall’s screen. It was begun, the records show, a full year ago, with a script by Charles MacArthur and with Josef von Sternberg directing. Mr. von Sternberg surrendered and Frank Borzage took over. Metro shelved the completed film, probably with good reason. James Kevin McGuinness was called in to doctor the script. Back it went for extensive retakes, with a slightly changed cast, under the direction of W.S. Van Dyke, MGM’s most reliable trouble-shooter. The result is ersatz, a synthetic brew tasting more of the cooking than the stock, with a completely nonsensical plot, ridiculous characterization and motivation and a final tableau reminiscent of a grammar school pageant in which a muslined Goddess of Liberty holds her arms in benediction over the grinning little representatives of Nations of the World.

…. It is altogether too much to expect that any cast could salvage anything from the potpourri of “Gone With the Wind,” “The Citadel” and last year’s galoshes…. “I Take This Woman” will go down in history as the most extensively operated-on film of 1938-39-40; unfortunately, the patient died.

 

June 22, 2020, Mystery Photo

For Monday, we have a mystery gent. I had to reject better images to foil Google image search. Such goings-on are annoying.

Update: This is Willie Best.

June 23, 2020, Mystery Photo

For Tuesday, we have this mystery gent.

Update: This gentleman remains unidentified for now. I always hope that someone will recognize some of these folks who lend atmosphere to a picture.

June 23, 2020, Mystery Photo

We also have this mystery girl.

Update: This is Sally Martin.

June 23, 2020, Mystery Photo

I had a nice image picked out for this spot. It was wonderful. It was so wonderful that it was already on Google image search. So our fruit vendor is Plan B.

June 27, 2020, Mystery Photo Sorry, Syd, your mug is too well-known.

Update: This is George Humbert, filling in for Syd Saylor, whose image is all over the Internet.

Brain Trust roll call: Michael Ryerson (Monday’s mystery guest), Patrick (Monday’s mystery guest), Jenny M. (Monday’s mystery guest), Benito (Monday’s mystery guest), Robert Morrissey (Monday’s mystery guest), Mary Mallory (Monday’s mystery guest), L.C. (Monday’s mystery guest), Anne Papineau (Monday’s mystery guest), Mike Hawks (Monday’s mystery guest), Sarah (Monday’s mystery guest), B.J. Merholz (Monday’s mystery guest), Sheila (Monday’s mystery guest), Howard Mandelbaum (Monday’s mystery guest), Thom and Megan (Monday’s mystery guest), Sylvia E. (Monday’s mystery guest) and Tucson Barbara (Monday’s mystery guest).

June 24, 2020, Mystery Photo

For “Hm Wednesday,” we have these two mystery women.

Update: This is Verree Teasdale and Natalie Moorhead.

June 24, 2020, Mystery Photo

We also have this mystery gent. Our leading man has been cropped out due to his utter lack of mysteriousness. He will appear Friday.

Update: This is Dalies Frantz, uncropped, with Spencer Tracy.

Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (right mystery fruit vendor, wrong movie), Suzanne A. Stone (Monday’s mystery gent), Mike Hawks (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery fruit vendor), Blackwing Jenny (Monday’s mystery gent), Michael Lott (Monday’s mystery gent), David Inman (Tuesday’s mystery fruit vendor), Mary Mallory (mystery movie and Tuesday’s mystery fruit vendor), Sue Slutzky (Monday’s mystery gent) and Gary (Monday’s mystery gent).

June 25, 2020, Mystery Photo

For “Aha Thursday,” we have this mystery gent, plus Back of the Head Woman, who will appear Friday.

Update: This is Kent Taylor.

June 25, 2020, Mystery Photo
We also have this mystery couple.

Update: This is George E. Stone, not playing a gangster. Also Dorothy Barrett.

June 25, 2020, Mystery Photo
And our final mystery guest for Thursday models typical office wear for a doctor with a well-heeled clientele.

Update: This is Louis Calhern. A wing collar? In 1940?

Brain Trust roll call: Sylvia E. (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery fruit vendor and Wednesday’s mystery guests), Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie, Wednesday’s mystery dress shop owner and mystery doctor), Mary Mallory (Wednesday’s mystery dress shop owner and mystery doctor), Mike Hawks (Wednesday’s mystery guests), Sheila (mystery movie, Tuesday’s mystery fruit vendor and Wednesday’s mystery dress shop owner) and  L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast).

June 26, 2020, Mystery Photo

For Friday, no ignore him, we have photo-bombing by a mystery gent who was left on the cutting room floor except for a few seconds in our mystery picture. And just ignore that other guy.

Update: Spencer Tracy getting photo-bombed by Jack Carson, who was cut out of the movie except for these few moments.

June 26, 2020, Mystery Photo

Also for Friday, we have this entirely unmysterious mystery woman.

Update: This is Hedy Lamarr in what strikes me as a terribly unflattering shot. The dramatic side-lighting is supposed to show that she’s crying but it seems to show every bump on her face, real or imagined.

June 26, 2020, Mystery Photo

And finally, our non-mysterious leading man.

Update: Spencer Tracy with photo-bombing by Don Castle, left, and Tom Collins.

Brain Trust roll call: Sylvia E. (Tuesday’s mystery fruit vendor, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s mystery guests), Mary Mallory (Thursday’s mystery gent No. 1, mystery gent at the window, mystery carriage trade doctor, and Back of the Head Woman and COFLOMP — cut out for lack of mysteriousness person), Howard Mandelbaum (Thursday’s mystery gent and Back of the Head Woman, mystery couple at the window and mystery carriage trade doctor), Michael Ryerson (mystery movie, Thursday’s mystery man No. 1, mystery man at the window and mystery carriage trade doctor), Mike Hawks (Thursday’s mystery gent No. 1 and Back of the Head Woman, mystery gent at the window and mystery carriage trade doctor), David Inman (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery guest, Thursday’s mystery man in the window and mystery carriage trade doctor), B.J. Merholz (Thursday’s mystery man in the window and mystery carriage trade doctor), Blackwing Jenny (Thursday’s carriage trade doctor), Anne Papineau (mystery movie, Thursday’s mystery gent in the window and mystery carriage trade doctor), Patrick (mystery movie), Megan and Thom (mystery movie, Wednesday’s mystery women, Thursday’s mystery man No. 1, mystery man in the window and mystery carriage trade doctor) and Gary (Thursday’s carriage trade doctor).

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1940, Film, Hollywood, Mystery Photo and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

62 Responses to Movieland Mystery Photo (Updated + + + + +)

  1. This is, of course, Willie Best about whom Bob Hope commented ‘one of the finest talents I’ve ever worked with.’ Best, in a 1934 interview, “I often think about these roles I have to play. Most of them are pretty broad. Sometimes I tell the director and he cuts out the real bad parts… But what’s an actor going to do? Either you do it or get out.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Patrick says:

    Willie Best

    Like

  3. Jenny M says:

    Willie Best

    Like

  4. Benito says:

    Willie Best? He had lotsa credits, even more uncredited work.

    Like

  5. Robert Morrissey says:

    That is the marvelous Willie Best. Bob Hope called him one of the best actors he ever worked with.

    Like

  6. Mary Mallory says:

    Willie Best.

    Like

  7. LC says:

    Willie Best

    Like

  8. Anne Papineau says:

    Wille Best

    Like

  9. Anne Papineau says:

    Meant to type Willie Best

    Like

  10. mike hawks says:

    willie best

    Like

  11. Sarah says:

    I’m probably wrong, because this would be too easy for Monday, but I will guess Willie Best.

    Like

  12. B.J. Merholz says:

    Willie Best

    Like

  13. Sheila says:

    Willie Best?

    Like

  14. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Willie Best.

    Like

  15. Allison Francis says:

    Stepin Fetchit?

    Like

  16. Thom and Megan says:

    Today’s guest is Steppin Fetchit, but not sure which movie yet.

    Like

  17. Thom and Megan says:

    Scratch that. I should put Willie Best.

    Like

  18. Sylvia E. says:

    I think Monday’s image is of Willie Best.

    Like

  19. tucsonbarbara says:

    Willie Best?

    Like

  20. Sylvia E. says:

    Have my Leonard Maltin book description and am going to try a ‘shot in the dark guess’ based on the fruit vendor (not that I know who he is or anything.)

    Is the movie “Juke Girl” 1942?

    Like

  21. suzanne a. stone says:

    Willie Best?

    Like

  22. mike hawks says:

    Our street vendor is George Humbert. Our film is I TAKE THIS WOMAN 1940.

    Like

  23. Is Monday’s actor Willie Best?

    Like

  24. Michael Lott says:

    Monday’s gent – Willie Best. I don’t know the movie.

    Like

  25. David Inman says:

    George Humbert as fruit vendor for today.

    Like

  26. Mary Mallory says:

    I TAKE THIS WOMAN. George Humbert as the vendor today.

    Like

  27. Sue Slutzky says:

    Is Monday’s guest Willie Best?

    Like

  28. Gary says:

    If everyone got the Monday guest correctly then I will go with my first hunch…Willie Best.

    Like

  29. Sylvia E. says:

    Shot in the dark#2 “I Take This Woman”

    Like

  30. My golly, that young blond guy looks like Eddie Albert and he would be about the right age. But my research says it isn’t.

    Like

  31. Mary Mallory says:

    Verree Teasdale, Mona Barrie, Dalies Frantz.

    Like

  32. mike hawks says:

    Verree Teasdale, Natalie Moorhead and Dalies Frantz

    Like

  33. Sheila says:

    Fruit vendor George Humbert, Wednesday Verree Teasdale, ‘I Take This Woman’?

    Like

  34. LC says:

    The movie is I Take This Woman (1940) w/Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr, Verree Teasdale…

    Like

  35. Sylvia E. says:

    Tues – 1 – guy singing (not sure) 2 – kids singing (not sure) 3 – fruit vendor is George Humbert
    (I think)
    Weds – 1 – Verree Teasdale and Natalie Moorehead are the ladies in image 1
    image 2 – Dalies Frantz and ‘cropped out for lack of mysteriousness’ Spencer Tracy

    Like

  36. Mary Mallory says:

    Frances Drake Wednesday with cut out Spencer Tracy, Kent taylor, George E. Stone, and Louis Calhern, and Hedy Lamarr at BOTH lady today.

    Like

  37. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Kent Taylor, Hedy Lamarr; George E. Stone, Dorothy Barrett; Louis Calhern.

    Like

  38. Kent Taylor, George E. Stone and Louis Calhern make this I Take This Woman (1940) with Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr.

    Like

  39. mike hawks says:

    Kent Taylor and Hedy Lamarr, George E. Stone and Louis Calhern.

    Like

  40. David Inman says:

    It all comes together. Willie Best on Monday, George Stone and Louis Calhern today = “I Take This Woman.”

    Like

  41. B.J. Merholz says:

    George E. Stone, then Louis Calhern.

    Like

  42. All I got is Louis Calhern. The very blonde guy looks like both Eddie Albert and Joseph Schildkraut to me!

    Like

  43. Anne Papineau says:

    George E. Stone and Louis Calhern in “I Take This Woman”

    Like

  44. Patrick says:

    I Take This Woman from 1940

    Like

  45. Megan and Thom says:

    Our movie is I Take This Woman with Verree Teasdale and Natalie Moorhead for Wednesday, and Kent Taylor, George E. Stone, and Louis Calhern for today.

    Like

  46. Diane Ely says:

    Is 1/2 of Thursday’s mystery couple Roger Pryor?

    Like

  47. Gary says:

    A wild guess …Louis Calhern and Lyle Talbut in 20,000 Years in Sing Sing….

    Like

  48. Gary says:

    A wild guess …Louis Calhern and Lyle Talbut in 20,000 Years in …

    Like

  49. Sylvia E. says:

    Thur. – #1 Kent Taylor and BOTHW Ms. Lamarr
    #2 (just guessing here) George E. Stone and Dorothy Barrett
    #3 Louis Calhern

    Friday will bring Hedy Lamarr and Spencer Tracy (Hopefully images w/ and w/o medical head-set gear. I had a ‘toy’ version of that from my ‘doctor’s kit’ as a kid.) Maybe we’ll also see Jack Carson and Majorie Main.

    Looking forward to Saturday’s breakdown.

    Like

  50. Dan Nather says:

    Got a strange feeling this is CHRISTMAS IN JULY . . .

    Like

  51. Mary Mallory says:

    Jack Carson, Spender Tracy, Hedy Lamarr, Tracy with Don Castle and Reed Hadley.

    Like

  52. Howard Mandelbaum says:

    Don Castle, Spencer Tracy; Hedy Lamarr.

    Like

  53. A youthful Jack Carson photo-bombing our male star Mr. Tracy, Hedy Lamarr at the pothole and finally Spencer Tracy.

    Like

  54. mike hawks says:

    I see Jack Carson in the background followed by Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr.

    Like

  55. Sylvia E. says:

    Friday – you found him! Jack Carson behind Mr. Tracy
    Hedy Lamarr
    Flanking Spencer Tracy are my guesses: scrn left, John Shelton? and scrn right, Tom Collins? (great name)

    Liked by 1 person

  56. Benito says:

    Spencer Tracy soldiered through some turkeys. He hated DANTE’S INFERNO 1935 and refused to do publicity for it. Of course we love its lurid tour of Hell.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante%27s_Inferno_(1935_film).

    Like

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