Marriage is a Private Affair (1944)

Marriage is a Private AffairWhen man-hungry heiress Theo Scofield (Lana Turner) playfully agrees to marry soldier Lt. Tom Cochrane West (John Hodiak), the last thing she expects is for him to actually taker her up on the offer. They’ve only known each other for three days, but Theo goes through with the wedding anyway, much to the dismay of her mother Irene (Natalie Schafer) and admirer Captain Miles Lancer (James Craig). But it doesn’t take long before Theo begins to question whether or not she’s really meant to be married. She’s used to being pursued by many men and it’s not like she’s grown up with a positive example of what marriage can be. Her mother has been married and divorced several times and Theo is worried that perhaps she’ll inevitably end up following in her mother’s footsteps. Tom is more positive about their marriage; his parents have been married for over 30 years and he idealizes the marriage between his friends Ted (Herbert Rudley) and Sissy (Frances Gifford).

Theo and Tom are married just before Tom is supposed to report for military duty, so they spend their honeymoon trying to get to know each other better. Their plans suddenly change and Tom is sent to take over his father’s optical company. Tom’s friend Joe (Hugh Marlowe) was the head of the company, but his behavior has become too erratic. Theo barely has time to adjust to marriage when she has a baby and then struggles to cope with motherhood.

On her son’s first birthday, she runs into her old admirer Miles, who is now stationed nearby. Frustrated by Tom’s long hours at work and desperate to feel attractive again, Theo goes out to meet Miles that night. When Tom finds out where she is, he’s furious at her for her not being home to celebrate their son’s first birthday. In dire need of some marriage advice, she goes to see Sissy, but is shocked to discover Sissy has been having an affair. After seeing that even someone like Sissy is capable of being unfaithful, Theo wonders if she’s truly a lost cause.

Marriage is a Private Affair probably would have worked better if it had been made in 1934, not 1944. IMDB lists it as a comedy, but it’s really more of a drama with some light moments. With the production codes being enforced in 1944, it would have been very hard to get the OK to produce a movie that could be seen as making fun of adultery. That’s something The Seven Year Itch had problems with over ten years later. In fact, this was originally announced as a project for Myrna Loy and Robert Taylor in 1941, but it faced so many problems with the Hays Office, the project was shelved. When it finally ended up being produced in 1944, the result wasn’t anything spectacular, but it’s still a likable movie. If nothing else, it’s interesting to see a Hays Code era film that depicts a woman seriously questioning whether or not she’s cut out for things like marriage and motherhood.

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