I’ve seen all of the Thin Man films and Manhattan Melodrama, but Double Wedding has to be one of my favorite William Powell-Myrna Loy movies. I almost wrote “romp” in place of “movie” there, but that’s too corny — except that it is a romp, completely silly and rather strange. It’s an odd role for William Powell, who is usually so dapper and suave. In this, he plays a goofball artist who lives in a trailer parked in a vacant lot; on the trailer is a sign that reads, “You are Now Departing Wilkes-Barre.” (Having spent time working in the creative writing program in said city, I thought this was pretty funny.) Powell runs around the movie wearing a long ratty fur coat, painting, and helping a young couple practice a play. I liked him this way. I would have run off with him any day. Myrna Loy is her usual calm and collected smart lady wearing cool hats and occasionally suits and ties. I have mixed feelings about Myrna, but no one can say she isn’t classy. She is particularly controlling in this film, playing her usual part times twenty, and it was oh so amusing. Will the commanding businesswoman marry the itinerant artist? What do you think?
The plot revolves around who-will-Powell marry, but not really. There is Myrna’s younger sister who gets a crush on Powell though she’s supposed to marry someone else. It’s all about the characters and their flirting. The supporting roles are fun. John Beal in particular is great as the mopey, monotone paramour to Myrna’s sister. Various other character types pop in and out and then collect en masse in a completely over-the-top scene at the end. It gets increasingly ridiculous and I thought it was a hoot. These kinds of movies are nice when you don’t want to think, and this was one of my favorites of this kind of ramped up, screwy thirties comedy.
It’s too bad that today the movie is mainly known as the film that William Powell was working on when his fiancee Jean Harlow died. As I watched, I had no idea that he was suffering (and that Loy was, too), and that goes to show how good they really are. Filming had to be halted for several weeks after her death because Powell was unable to work. Throughout, he seems to be his usual bubbly, campy self. I’m glad I didn’t know when I was watching; I’m sure I would have otherwise been looking for signs of anguish. Looking back, I can sense points where the tone seems off, or when Loy seems to be running the show. He’s unusually touching in this role, and I suppose the reason for that doesn’t really matter.
Thing is, this is a fine movie of its kind. Powell is hilarious, Loy is deadpan, and they work brilliantly together, as always. Double Wedding just reaffirms my mini-crush on William Powell. Now if I could just have his long coat and her hats, I’d be set.