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The Next Reel • Season 11 • Series: Journalists • Dorothy Arzner's 1932 film Merrily We Go to Hell

Merrily We Go to Hell

“Gentlemen, I give you the holy state of matrimony, modern style! Single lives, twin beds, and triple bromides in the morning!”

Dorothy Arzner is a filmmaker we want to look at more closely.

It’s surprising and a tad shameful to learn this late in the game about Dorothy Arzner. There had been other female filmmakers in the early days of the Hollywood system, but Arzner was largely the only woman regularly working as a director in the 30s and 40s. Her film Merrily We Go to Hell has some comedy in it but largely is a drama about a young couple who fall in love only to have their marriage affected by alcoholism and infidelity. But what’s so fascinating about it is that the woman sees what her husband’s up to and decides to do it too. It is a modern marriage, after all. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our Journalists series with Arzner’s 1932 film Merrily We Go to Hell.

For a series about journalists, journalism is barely recognized in this film.

Okay, so it’s not a perfect film for this series. But our protagonist, played by Frederic March, is a journalist so there’s at least some semblance of a loose connection. What he is is an incredible alcoholic, but Sylvia Sidney, the woman who falls for him, doesn’t see it that way. But do we buy their romance?

And what do we think of the modern marriage elements of the story? (It’s not so hard to believe, though, that she’d hook up with Cary Grant, great to see in an early role.)

What do we think of the title which gives it more of a comedic feel even though the film is much more of a drama?

How do the elements play in the pre-Code days?

And what stands out about Arzner’s direction?

It’s an entertaining and interesting film – but the story has some elements that don’t completely work for us. Regardless, it opened the door for us to Arzner and we definitely want to see more of her works. So check out the film then tune in. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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