I’m of the opinion that any release of a Jimmy Stewart movie on Blu-ray is something to be celebrated, and Made for Each Other has a lot to celebrate. This 1939 David O. Selznick production also co-starred the great Carole Lombard, and as an added bonus, some evocative cinematography from Leon Shamroy. While the film itself falls short of greatness, having a lesser known Stewart/Lombard title available in HD is a wonderful treat.
The Production: 3.5/5
The first and most important thing that must be said about Made for Each Other is that it is not a subtle film. Any criticism and any praise ultimately boils down to that one sentiment. The plot turns are big, the emotions bigger, and at any opportunity where the film must choose between a realistic or bombastic approach, it doubles down on the latter.
In other words, it’s a David O. Selznick picture.
But if it’s not one of the famed producer’s greater works, there are still delights to be had. There are too few Carole Lombard movies, and while this isn’t a showcase role, it’s a delight to see her gracing the screen. For James Stewart, this movie is a footnote in a year that also saw the release of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and Destry Rides Again, but it’s a fascinating peak at his pre-war persona coming into focus. Not quite the finished product of the Capra film, but showing more range and depth than his earlier contract performances allowed. The chemistry between the two is more functional than electric, but the script doesn’t leave them much room to develop a nuanced rapport.
When the film begins, John (Stewart) is returning home from a business trip; while away, he fell in love with Jane (Lombard) and the two quickly married. But John’s boss, Judge Doolittle (Charles Coburn) had hoped that John would court his daughter, and makes John’s work life more difficult in retaliation. Meanwhile, John’s mother (Lucile Watson) is also unimpressed with John’s choice. Despite the hardships they must endure, John and Jane remain devoted to each other. (Though with the script having the characters meet and fall in love off-screen, the audience must take their compatibility on faith.)
The film’s script (by Rose Franken, Jo Swerling and an uncredited Frank Ryan) doesn’t give Lombard much to do, but she does it well. Stewart seems vaguely miscast, not quite wrong for the part but not quite right either. Coburn and Watson lay it on thick, but are effective in their supporting roles, though the script sometimes leave them in situations that feel false. John Cromwell’s direction is efficient, bringing the film in at a quickly paced 93 minutes.
3D Rating: NA
Made for Each Other is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1, labeled as 1.33:1 on the packaging. The transfer is generally solid and very film-like. There is some slight unsteadiness, minor dirt and debris and slight flickering at various points throughout, but nothing distracting. In the better moments, the black and white imagery is beautifully represented with great clarity. And at worst, it’s merely very good.
The film’s monaural audio is presented in the DTS-HD MA 2.0 lossless format which my receiver decoded to the center channel. Dialogue is well recorded and easy to discern in the mix, which is generally well balanced and free of distracting age-related artifacts.
Special Features: 3/5
Audio Commentary by Film Historian Lee Gambin – Gambin offers an analysis of the film and some background on its production, all delivered in a pleasant conversational style.
Trailer (2:05, HD) – As unsubtle as the film itself, the trailer gives away practically every plot point.
Made for Each Other, despite the top level talent involved, is a minor entry in the filmography of its stars James Stewart and Carole Lombard, and not one of the splashier productions from David O. Selznick. However, there is a certain charm in seeing Stewart and Lombard in a smaller picture, and their appeal is what makes the film worthwhile. In addition to a very solid transfer, Kino’s disc includes a trailer and an enjoyable commentary.
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