24 April 2005 | bkoganbing
A Girl Named Irene, A Guy Named Spence, and Another Guy Named Van
This is a wonderful romantic picture set in World War II and I have to say Spencer Tracy has almost as much chemistry with Irene Dunne as he does with Katharine Hepburn.
During his career Spencer Tracy was basically two types of character, the cryptic tough guy adventurer and later on a wise father figure. In A Guy Named Joe his Pete Sandidge gets to be both. But he has to get killed before he morphs into his second character.
Spencer Tracy is an ace pilot who's over in the European Theatre and his girlfriend, Irene Dunne is also a pilot, a la Amelia Earhart. She's forever worried about the risks he takes and then her wishes turn into reality as he gets himself killed.
Of course he's not quite ready to enter the pearly gates. It seems as though Heaven has an Air Corps advisory program for ghosts to advise living pilots and Spence's first assignment is Van Johnson. Wouldn't you know it, Van's the guy that's getting Irene on the rebound. Tracy's not enough of a ghost yet that the old green-eyed monster isn't grabbing hold of him. So.............................
With Tracy being dead, the possibilities of endings are limited. But it's at this point that Tracy grows into the father figure character we know him better from in his later work.
Van Johnson's career got a big boost from this film. He's previously been in mostly B films, a lot of them as successor to Lew Ayres in the later in the Dr. Gillespie series. He was injured in a motorcycle accident during the shooting and Spencer Tracy threatened to walk off the picture if Van was replaced. Van healed and the film started him into the upward path of his career.
Irene Dunne who did almost as many musicals as straight drama in the 1930s got to sing in this film. That's always a plus. Here she sings a great rendition of I'll Get By which was enjoying a revival of popularity in the World War II years.
Rounding out the supporting cast are Lionel Barrymore, Ward Bond, James Gleason, Barry Nelson, and Don DeFore all performing to their usual standards of excellence.
A really great romantic film like they don't make any more.