14 December 2014 | AlsExGal
"All women have unfinished business"
This was an odd little piece of filmmaking from Universal back in 1941. Irene Dunne plays a never married woman, Nancy Andrews, probably in her mid to late 20's, who has spent her life raising her younger sister who is now marrying. In 1941 in Ohio, where this movie starts, Nancy would be considered a spinster. Sis and her new husband have a surprise for her - she can come live with them! Nancy doesn't want to be treated to life in a rocking chair just yet and decides to leave and go off to the big city (New York) and "do things". However, she doesn't really have a plan, and it seems that is part of the attraction for her - for once in her life, having no plan.
On the train to New York she meets rich playboy Steve Duncan (Preston Foster). He makes a bet with his companion on who can pick up the most attractive woman and bring her back to their compartment first. Nancy is not wise in the ways of the world and does not see this obvious fellow for what he is, and is charmed by him and believes his pick up lines as sincerity. Steve wins the bet but decides to go for the gold and seduces Nancy. Now this is where things get murky - probably deliberately. As the train whistles, Steve, with an expression that screams "date rape" in modern times, comes closer and closer to Nancy and they wind up kissing - it is mutual. The camera then moves to the outside of the train with that train still whistling. The insinuation is that they sleep together.
They arrive in New York, and Steve says he will call her. He has no such intention. She is just the latest conquest among many and he is engaged - something he never told her - to someone he probably doesn't love any more than the rest of his conquests. However, his intended is old money like himself and that is what matters. Slowly Nancy comes to the realization that she's been used like yesterday's newspapers, and through luck and coincidence winds up a novelty "singing operator" at a nightspot run by the always fascinating to watch Walter Catlett. So who winds up at the nightspot one night but slimy Steve, his fiancée, and Steve's brother Tommy (Robert Montgomery), who shares Steve's worst characteristics PLUS he is a drunk. However, Tommy takes a genuine shine to Nancy and they begin dating. Primarily Tommy is "Steve by proxy" in Nancy's life - she still carries a torch. However Tommy is so drunk most of the time he can't see this. They marry on a lark - Tommy is drunk, Nancy is trying to put Steve behind her. The next day Tommy doesn't even remember that he got married and Nancy doesn't seem to care. How will this all work out? I'll let you watch and find out.
I'll just say that a busy boarding house, a little accident, the United States Army, and the opera are all involved. Oh, and one of those girls from Tommy's past that meant no more to Tommy than Nancy did to brother Steve is pivotal in a small but important role.
I liked this movie because it dealt with an issue that was seldom brought up in the production code era - that a woman can have a past involving some man that she loved and even made a fool of herself over, but didn't get and always carries a torch for, and not wind up the object lesson in some Victorian morality play. Life goes on. This one is very much worth your time exactly because it doesn't go where you think it is going and with a talented cast to boot.