As Julie prepares to leave her husband Roger, she begins to play through a stack of recordings, each of which reminds her of events in their lives together. One of them is the song that was playing when she and Roger first met in a music store. Other songs remind her of their courtship, their marriage, their desire for a child, and the joys and sorrows that they have shared. A flood of memories comes back to her as she ponders their present problems and how they arose.
One of my favorite tear-jerkers of all time, starring one of my favorite screen couples. “Penny Serenade” always puts me through the ringer, even though I have seen it a dozen or so times. It can still make me cry and, thankfully, it can still make me laugh.
The music-stirring-memories plot device makes for a lovely soundtrack, as well as our main characters’ meet-cute. We start the film knowing that Julie and Roger are ending their marriage. We learn through flashbacks everything they’ve faced and why they feel it is so hopeless now.
The cast is full of top-notch talent, the writing is solid, the direction stellar. As melodramatic a film as this, though, would have floundered with lesser performers in the main roles. Cary Grant is at his charming best, Irene Dunne could tell the entire story with just her face. Together, in this movie and others, they have a chemistry so winning, you can’t help but be drawn in to their world.
There are some standout scenes; baby’s first bath, Roger’s impassioned plea to the judge… However, it is the whole of the movie that makes it great.
If you enjoy an old movie now & then, and you don’t mind your companions seeing you cry, do yourself a favor and catch “Penny Serenade” It is available at many libraries – and even on YouTube.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 93%; Audience 74%
Speaking of the Cary Grant / Irene Dunne chemistry, I found this video that was made for a contemporary song, using some of the sweetest, kissiest moments from Penny Serenade