Title: I Love You Again
Release Date: 1940
Length: 99 minutes
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Frank McHugh
Opening the year with a film that’s not strictly about a new year, but is very much about new beginnings. It’s not long or complicated, but simply a well-crafted piece of film made by a group of talented people.
William Powell and Myrna Loy were in quite a few movies together. In their day they were as well-known as Astaire and Rogers though their fame has not endured so well. Not so shining a film as The Thin Man, this one still has much to recommend it.
A screwball comedy which opens with strait-laced, teetotaler(!) Powell returning to the US by boat when a mishap leads to a blow on the head. A minor grifter falls overboard with him and Powell gets a knock from the life-preserver. This does not, however, cause amnesia as you might suspect. In a clever twist it cures the amnesia from which he was already suffering for the past 9 years and returns Powell to himself as…a con man!
He decides, along with his newfound pal, to apply himself to using the last, lost 9 years of building himself into a pillar of the community to run a scam on the solid citizens of his town. He also figures he might as well enjoy his nominal marriage when he sets eyes on his wife, played by, who else, Myrna Loy.
Snags arise, however, because he’s expected to return to work he doesn’t remember. He’s also the leader of the local Boy Scout troop, but now without any remembered woodland expertise. Oh, yes, he wrote the town song and learned to play the trumpet. Finally, to top it off, his wife is in the middle of filing for divorce because she’s weary of being married to such a milquetoast, by-the-numbers, goody-two-shoes.
His efforts are torn between keeping up appearances for the sake of the con and persuading his wife that he’s “reformed” and become more of the man she wants so she’ll thaw in her attitude toward him. With these ends and means being so incompatible, some hijinks ensue. How on earth will… well, you can probably guess what happens, frankly.
The talent downbill is also not bad, led by Frank McHugh as Powell’s conman collaborator. Carl Switzer (Alfalfa from the Little Rascals) makes an appearance as one of the scouts in Powell’s troop.
Even if the Hollywood ending is tolerably obvious from some distance away, there are laughs enough on the way there. Sure, it could have used some more snappy Powell-Loy banter (cf. The Thin Man). The end does have a twist which, I think, pleases even though it hardly surprises. It’s second-tier maybe, but modern movies would do well to rise so high in many cases. Powell and Loy were two of the greats. It’s certainly worth watching.