Monday, September 15, 2014

Every Girl Should Be Married

Sinatra & Reynolds
For better or worse, movies have been telling us that matrimonial bliss is the key to true happiness. More specifically, it--along with children--are the only way for a woman to be truly fulfilled. Men, on the other hand, might be content to live out their bachelor lives, finding satisfaction in their careers and multiple visitors in their beds. Therefore, the message goes, it is up to the woman to resort to trickery to help her chosen mate realize domestic bliss. A few examples through the decades:

  • Double Harness (1933) - Joan (Ann Harding), who is on verge of spinsterhood, declares, "Marriage is a woman's business," and goes about getting herself hitched. She arranges for her father to catch her with her boyfriend (William Powell) in a compromising situation, resulting in their "forced" marriage. Both find happiness when they discover they are also in love with each other. 

  • Every Girl Should Be Married (1948) - When Anabel (Betsy Drake) sets her sights on Madison (Cary Grant), an unmarried doctor, she does not have the pre-code convenience of being found in a negligee in Madison's apartment. No worries--she has many other tricks up her sleeve, including inciting all the women attending one of Madison's lectures to admit they used trickery to trap their husbands. Speaking of which... 

  • The Tender Trap (1955) - At this point in cinematic history, husband-trapping is a fact of life, so why not make a humorous romp of it? Like Powell's and Grant's characters, Charlie (Frank Sinatra) is a confirmed bachelor and there is a woman, Julie (Debbie Reynolds), with designs to snare him. Julie's plan doesn't succeed in the short run, but by the end of the movie--and a quick lapse of a year--Charlie proposes to her. All is well that ends well.

  • Sunday in New York (1963) - Eileen (Jane Fonda) goes to her brother (Cliff Robertson) to find out "what the right procedure is in snaring a suitable man for the laudable purpose of making a home together and life with children and church-going and growing old together as is mentioned in both testaments and many other highly respected sources." Translation: she needs help attaining that highest womanly goal--holy matrimony. Unlike Joan of the early 30s, she is not willing to put out to get a proposal. And unfortunately the ploys of Anabel and Julie have not worked either. The trap is in question not whether to trap. Because what else would a single twenty-two year old American gal do?  

In 2003, the whimsical Down With Love paid homage to this favorite movie plot of yesteryear, that of the great lengths women go in order to snag a husband. At the same time, it is poking fun too. *spoiler alert* 
We find out the events that have unfolded throughout the movie are part of Barbara's (Renee Zellweger) elaborate scheme to entrap Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor). This updated version contends with another factor, though: her career, which is put on equal footing with--if not higher than--marriage. Well, almost... Come back next week for a look at Career Girls and Marriage.

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