Come Live With Me (1941)

Come Live With Me 1941After fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria, Johnny Jones (Hedy Lamarr) comes to America, starts a career as a showgirl, and starts dating book publisher Barton Kendrick (Ian Hunter). But when her passport expires, she continues to stay in America illegally and eventually, the government catches up with her. When an agent comes to see her, he tells her she’ll have to leave the country unless she marries an American citizen. But the real problem is that she can’t even marry Barton, he’s already married. Later that night, she goes out to a restaurant and meets Bill Smith (James Stewart), a writer going through a rough patch and in dire need of money. Since Johnny has money and Bill is an American citizen, she suggests a marriage of convenience: he marries her and she pays him $17.80 a week to be her husband. Bill agrees.

Two months go by and Johnny is happy with the arrangement. She keeps seeing Barton, but he’s clueless about how Johnny solved her citizenship dilemma. At least Johnny is happy with the arrangement until Barton tells her he’s leaving his wife Diana (Verree Teasdale) to marry Johnny. When Johnny tells Bill she wants a divorce, he’s reluctant to agree to it. Not because he wants the money, but he’s become infatuated with Johnny and has started writing a book about his unusual marriage.

When Bill finishes his book, he sends it to several publishers, including Barton. Both Barton and Diana read the book and want to publish it. But during a meeting with Bill, the Kendricks realize what’s really going on. Bill uses the money from his advance to buy a car and take Johnny on a trip before he’ll agree to the divorce. He wants to get to know her better before they divorce and hopes she’ll reconsider. During a visit to Bill’s grandmother’s home, Johnny realizes that maybe Bill is the one she really wants to be with after all.

People getting married for the sake of solving a citizenship problem is hardly a unique plot device for movies or TV shows, but Come Live With Me manages to stand out from the others. Come Live With Me offers enough twists and charm that it doesn’t feel like you’re watching something that’s been done time and time again. Jimmy Stewart and Hedy Lamarr are so likeable together, it’s easy to want them to end up together at the end. It’s all very sweet, gentle, and extremely enjoyable. Come Live With Me is exactly the type of movie I talk about when I call a movie a hidden gem — not exactly well known, but with a great cast, good writing, it’s anything but mediocre.

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