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This Man Is Mine

This Man Is Mine(1934)

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teaser This Man Is Mine (1934)

RKO's This Man Is Mine (1934) marked the first screen pairing of Irene Dunne and Ralph Bellamy. The duo would go on to make two more films together joining forces with Cary Grant in the quintessential screwball comedy The Awful Truth (1937) and teaming up for a third time in Lady in a Jam (1942). The plot of This Man Is Mine found Dunne cast as a wife who must fight to keep her husband (Bellamy) when his flirtatious ex (played by Constance Cummings) turns up. The film was made toward the beginning of Dunne's career when she was still playing dramatic roles and not yet recognized as a gifted comedy actress.

Irene Dunne made her Broadway debut in 1923. A few years later, her performance in Show Boat caught the attention of Hollywood and she was signed to a contract by RKO. Dunne's first film would be the Rodgers and Hart musical-comedy Leathernecking (1930). It would be her last upbeat role for a while and then a string of dramatic films would follow including two Fannie Hurst adaptations, Symphony of Six Million and Back Street (both 1932); the surprisingly frank pre-code Ann Vickers (1933); and Consolation Marriage (1931), a melodrama about a marriage of convenience.

This Man Is Mine would be Dunne's fourteenth film within a four year period and in it, despite the dramatics of the storyline, her comedic talent began to show through. As the book, The RKO Girls, puts it, "[Dunne] began a professional transition of genre specialty in This Man Is Mine, which would gravitate her from turgid drawing-room drama to lighthearted comedy. The almost imperceptible changes in her screen image were leading [her] further and further away from the anonymous hoity-toity nobility pose." Even the New York Times noticed the shift. In its review, the Times quipped, "she's still noble Irene Dunne in This Man Is Mine but she's loosening up."

Later the same year, Dunne would star in the musical Sweet Adeline (1934) and the next year would bring the Astaire-Rogers musical Roberta (1935). Finally, in 1936, the films Show Boat, which allowed Dunne to bring her popular stage role to the big screen, and Theodora Goes Wild, a screwball romp in which she played a repressed novelist, would confirm Dunne's new, more lighthearted screen persona.

As for This Man Is Mine, Dunne's co-stars included not only Bellamy and Constance Cummings, but also Kay Johnson who was married to the film's director, John Cromwell. Johnson had a rather brief Hollywood career, which lasted just fourteen years. Some of her more memorable pictures included the 1929 Cecil B. DeMille drama Dynamite; The Spoilers (1930) opposite Gary Cooper; and Of Human Bondage (1934) where she supported Bette Davis. Johnson married director John Cromwell in 1929; their son is Oscar® nominated actor James Cromwell.

Another familiar face in This Man Is Mine is Charles Starrett as Jud McCrae. Starrett would later be know for his Western roles, particularly that of the Durango Kid. He would play the Durango Kid in dozens of B-Westerns for Columbia in the 1940s and 50s.

This Man Is Mine was based on a play by Anne Morrison Chapin called Love Flies in the Window. The screenplay was adapted by Jane Murfin, whose Broadway play Smilin' Through would later be adapted to film twice (the first version starred Norma Shearer, the second featured Jeanette MacDonald). Murfin also co-wrote the script for several highly regarded pictures; among her screen credits are Alice Adams (1935) and The Women (1939).

Producer: Pandro S. Berman, Merian C. Cooper
Director: John Cromwell
Screenplay: Jane Murfin, Anne Morrison Chapin (play)
Cinematography: David Abel
Film Editing: William Morgan
Art Direction: Carroll Clark, Van Nest Polglase
Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Irene Dunne (Tony Dunlap), Constance Cummings (Francesca Harper), Ralph Bellamy (Jim Dunlap), Kay Johnson (Bee McCrae), Charles Starrett (Jud McCrae), Vivian Tobin (Rita).

by Stephanie Thames

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