“If you just know the six sentences to say that
would make him propose, would you say them?”
This is the question Aline MacMahon proposes to Loretta Young to hook that special guy. A whole lot of cards are dealt from the bottom of the deck on both sides of the gender gap in “WEEK-END MARRIAGE.” These cards are strewn about like rose petals in Reno.
Love on the Rocks
In this story about inter-personal relationships between men and women, for and against marriage, Lola ( LORETTA YOUNG ) has a perfectly respectable, reasonable, economically sound approach to entering a lifetime partnership ( marriage ) with her attractive but childish object of affection Ken ( NORMAN FOSTER ). She wants to keep her job and contribute her salary to their household. This doesn’t sound revolutionary to me, but I’M living in 2015. As she tells her friend Connie:
Lola ( Young ): “Gee with Ken’s $40 and my $40 we’ll have $80.00. At least we won’t have to worry about the radio payments. We can have a cleaning woman.”
Connie ( Sheila Terry ): “Gee, that’s swell Lola…If I don’t marry him soon, Joe says he’ll marry somebody else. Now that he has money, he wants babies. That’s all they ever want.”
Lola: “Don’t be a fool Connie. You stick to your job.”
Things don’t bode well for the young couple for two reasons.
I. Her husband’s short-sighted skepticism:
Ken ( Foster): “Man doesn’t like his wife working in an office. He wants to work for her. Wants her waiting for him when he gets home.”
Lola ( Young ): “Oh Ken, you’re hopelessly dated… Don’t you see dear, I want to help. I don’t want to be a drag on you. And if you let me keep my job, everything’ll be so much easier.”
Ken: “We’ll maybe. For a month or two ‘till I get a raise.”
Lola: “No it’s got to be for longer, Ken.”
Ken: “Well…for how long?”
Lola: “Well, as long as I feel like working. Or until I feel I can afford not to.”
( Dude, you can take care of me all you want, but can I keep my own money then? )
II. When we see Ken wearing an apron and cooking dinner or shopping for groceries.
His sister-in-law sees he has his hands full
You see, what’s baked into the fine print of the marriage vows along with regular, legally sanctioned bouts of “Whoopee!” is the fact that she is expected to keep up with the housework: cooking, cleaning, shopping as well as do office work. I got the pre-code shock of my life when I saw Young and Foster cuddling in bed together. The same bed. The…one…bed. That looks hopeful, grown-up and progressive for movies. Yay Pre-Code.
My jaw dropped but I ain’t seen nuthin yet…
As the movie goes on, they’re like ships that pass in the night, unable to coordinate their schedules. He makes a mess making pork chops…she comes home to a messy house.
A woman’s work is never done, even when she comes home from work…
Troubles begin when their fortunes change. She gets a raise…
“The time has come when I’ve got to go to St. Louis. Things are in a horrible mess out there…and here’s the point. It would help me a lot to have you along. Of course I realize your responsibilites as a wife and all that. Well there it is. And if you intend to keep on with your career, I think it’d be a very good opening for you. You’d get $50 a week to start and your position would more or less be executive. As a matter of fact, you’d be my assistant.”
How refreshing. No strings; just merit. Gee, this is swell but…
…he loses his job
HE: “I got cut today. They’re eliminating the Foreign Department. I can have a job for $30 if I wanted.”
SHE: “Are you going to take it?”
HE: “Sure. What else can I do?”
SHE: “Nevermind honey. It all amounts to the same thing. I got a raise today.”
HE: “Oh, so you got a raise.”
SHE: “Isn’t that swell?”
HE: “Yeah, you’ll be wearing the pants from now on I suppose.”
SHE: “But Ken do you think that’s nice?”
HE: “Well, it’s the truth isn’t it? You’ll be earning more than I will.”
SHE: “What of it?”
HE: “Oh nothing, I guess. Anything goes these days.”
What the… ACK!! On the face of it, I can’t see a thing wrong with earning more money, es-pecially in 1932. Young is glad to contribute until Foster gets back on his feet. But look at the way it’s all framed. This is how the movies set us up: ( “Money? MONEY?!! She don’ need no steeenking monaaay!!!” ) Each raise she gets jeopardizes her relationship.
( Scroll down just a little more to see page 2 of my argument. )
You know what’s scary? That the doctor (Grant Mitchell) may be right! Men who have to go to 9-to-5 jobs every day are anything but free. Some don’t seem to mind their lack of freedom. Others find it absolute torture. But if you don’t subject yourself to wage slavery, you can’t afford to have a family. Young men are slowly finding this out and beginning to stay away from marriage, careers, and fatherhood in increasing numbers. Those things come with low reward and high penalty.
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You’re right, Brian. I was lucky to have high reward and low penalty.
Grant Mitchell freaked me out. I couldn’t believe the turn of events between Young and the prostitute. ( I didn’t see ANY of that coming. ) But I loved that the script didn’t judge her harshly. I did loathe how the script treated Young. That’ll learn ya. You want to be independent…and on your own…and NOT under your husband’s thumb? Well here’re the consequences – you won’t be considered his legal guardian by marriage. Wage slavery? Hopefully folks can try to get a job they actually like ( a rarity…I know ). I don’t know if young men are finding out what you say: ( “…beginning to stay away from marriage, careers, and fatherhood in increasing numbers.” ) But it’d be swell if they didn’t father so many children they’re not prepared to take care of.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la mame chose, Theresa. This issue is still alive today in many levels of our society. Still, there are young couples who appear to be able to manage an “imbalance” of salaries. This post admirable shows how a run-of-the-mill movie can reflect “real life” in a way that the more ambitious films sometimes miss. There’s not really much about cinema in this post, but what after all is more important, Love, Marriage, and Family, or Movies? We may seek Entertainment or Esthetic Pleasure on the screen or in film criticism, but the greatest value comes when something is said about Human Relations. Thanks, Theresa.
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Bien sur, mon ami. And again, sometimes NOT having a big budget allows you to be creative in the film you want to make and what you’re trying to say. Yes, a story is important…but what the story is SAYING is even more important.
I’m incapable of being objective about Aline MacMahon – she’s a favorite and makes all of her movies a Must-See for me, just by being in it. My relatively late discovery of her (HEAT LIGHTING on TCM then her version of KIND LADY vs Basil Rathbone) was followed a year or so later with her smaller role in Montgomery Cliff’s THE SEARCH where she fills the screen with a couple of decades of aging, but is soooo magnificent in that. And even more so because OF her aging. She enters that film as a wider, “old battle-ax” persona and ends up being the shining knight of the calvary charge to save everyone.
Thanks for a great write-up on this film.
The gasping moments were so frequent here – the one-bed scene, Aline’s speeches, the economic developments, the prostitute AND debating points that every household faces at one point or another – as you said, “Yay, Pre-Code!”
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Hi there Ollie! Another MacMahon devotee. I love it. I’ve heard she was soooo good in “The Search” but it’s a film I’ve not seen…yet! I like that you say: “…because OF her aging.” This “Weekend Marriage” really shocked me to my core. Ha! You’d think I’d know better by now, right? I’m currently exploring more films from the thirties, and this Loretta Young picture dropped my jaw. I don’t know how ANY woman back then could have fought the social view that women really should stay home and not financially contribute to her family. If a woman wanted to stay home, swell. But what if she WANTED to work? Well… I ask you, were men’s egos really soooooo weak and fragile? I can’t think of any other way to look at it. I’m checking out Loretta Young right now in “She Had to Say Yes.” Whew! She’s having an awful time in it. The life of a working girl was rough and challenging. And THAT’S not even dealing with the actual work. It was dealing with men.
( If you get a chance, see Aline battle Anne Baxter in “Guest in the House” —-> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VZb5vcacPQ ).
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I’m flattered to be cited in your essay Pre-Code Danny. Thank you! ( Hmmm…didn’t I say Norman Foster was a putz??! I must correct that if I didn’t.) 😉