In Name Only (1939)

Fishing on a sunny afternoon can be quite a pleasant thing. It is quite relaxing. The fishing rod’s string gets stuck to one of the tree branches, and it isn’t enjoyable anymore. A good-looking stranger comes to the rescue, and there it began the story of ‘In Name Only.’

Julia Eden (Carole Lombard) is fishing with her daughter Ellen (Peggy Ann Garner) when the string gets stuck. Outcomes Alec Walker (Cary Grant) to offer his help. He is the son of the fishing estate owner. He strikes a conversation with Julia, and they both seem to have an excellent time chatting up.

It isn’t surprising that they fall in love with each other. Relatively easy to fall in love. Alec Walker is the son of a wealthy man who has an excellent reputation in social circles. Alec is unhappily married to Maida Walker (Kay Francis), which is one reason to fall in love with Julia. Julia and Alec keep meeting often, and it is clear the liking they have for each other.

Julia is unaware of Alec’s marital status. It takes a car accident and Julia’s sketchbook in the car for Maida to know about the other lady’s presence in Alec’s life. Who is Maida? She is a good-looking lady, a very calm, gentle, loving wife, and a daughter-in-law. That was the impression she had on Alec’s parents while having no such affection towards Alec.

Marrying a wealthy man’s son and being among the top in social circles can be quite an incentive, and she wasn’t the one to let go of this at any cost. She wasn’t in love to be married to Alec and wasn’t prepared to give up even when Alec wasn’t interested in her.

She makes quite a scene of Alec’s attraction for Julia and refuses to give divorce when Alec asks for one. Instead, she decides to be with Alec’s parents to have their support against her husband, their son. Julia is in love with Alec and is looking forward to being with Alec.

Once she gets the message from Maida and, coupled with Alec’s hesitance to break the social norm and accept her in total, she decides to give up on the relationship, thinking it has no future. Alec is in the middle of a deep emotional crisis, and he decides to become a recluse and stays in a hotel.

He gets drunk on a winter night and manages to get ill (pneumonia) as he doesn’t pay any attention to the cold winters of Christmas. He is admitted to the hospital.┬áTo restore Alec’s zeal, Julia decides to comfort him, falsely assuring him about them getting together.

Maida steps into the room, and Julia, while trying to block her, gets into a confrontation with her. Maida confesses openly about her intentions and states the reason for getting married. She even claims to have sacrificed her love to marry Alec and for the social status attached to it. This was overheard by Alec’s parents and recognises what kind of illusion they have been all this long.

One of the fascinating aspects of this movie is the intense portrayal of all the main three characters. Kay Francis impresses with her impish tricks, while Carole Lombard exhibits the other extreme of a lady pristinely in love. Cary Grant plays the lovable, irritated guy who manages to pull off Alec Walker’s role with subtle sophistication.

Directed by John Cromwell, the story of this 1939 RKO release is inspired by Bessie Breuer, an American writer’s debut novel ‘In Memory on Love’ (1935)