The featured star on TCM this month is Joel McCrea. I love him. You might already know this. He had some of the best shoulders in Hollywood, though I am not sure he'd win against Bill Holden in a shoulder baring contest. Hard to say, as he was several inches taller. Anyway.
I like his early comedies, some of his "working man" dramas, some of the spy things, some of the westerns. I'm not completionist about him, though. He was in a million things. Some of it isn't my groove. But I set up my bedroom DVR to record most of the films TCM is showing on Wednesdays this month, particularly the early "pre-Code" ones with which I'm less familiar. Tuesday night I started watching a really old one called Born to Love, from 1931, also starring Constance Bennett. It was a very early entry for both of them, and neither is very good, but they're endearing enough. And this movie was on in the wee hours of the morning, when they tend to show the films only a hard-core interest would find appealing.
It's set in London at the tail end of WW1. They meet, fall instantly for each other, and it is made clear they give themselves to each other just before he is to leave for battle, promising they'll marry upon his return. And then she is pregnant. If you don't know much about movies of that era, you can't have a complete understanding of how scandalous it is, because she isn't made out to be a bad girl. But she is paid back for her indiscretion.
At first, tragedy; her young man is dead! Then a savior; the rich lord who loves her agrees to marry her and raise the baby as his own. And then I fell asleep.
Last night, I turned it on again. Let me back up first, and foreshadow how this ends for you. The movie is 75 minutes long, ordinary for that time. So is my recording. But the first 15 minutes of my recording are the end of the previous movie, and some previews. This never happens on TCM, so I assumed the movie was even shorter than I'd thought, which is sometimes the case, and the rest of the time slot is filler.
Moving along. They baptize the baby in the lord's name. At the christening party, she receives a phone call. Her love is still alive! She won't see him. She tells her husband. She does see him! But rejects him for her marriage. She tells her husband. He doesn't believe her! They divorce. He takes full custody and kicks her out.
Two years have passed. McCrea is back in London, everyone assumes Bennett has been with him, but he didn't even know of her divorce. She is in a crappy flat, clearly preparing to hock her necklace when he turns up. She pushes him away! If she doesn't, she won't be allowed to see the child, and she is about to for the first time since she was sent away. She pawns her necklace, excitedly buys a gift for her son, and rushes to her old home. Her ex-husband is there, and she asks, "Will I be able to see my child regularly now?"
He says, grimly, "I can never again interfere."
She rushes up the stairs and we see her run into the nursery, the crib in shadows. She gasps! And the TV asks if I want to delete the recording.
This is the last thing I see on my screen.
So, you know, I worked out what happened next. The kid is dead, the dad is full of regret, she runs off to kill herself. McCrea shows up at the last second, but I couldn't decide if he's too late or not. These movies used to go either way, you know. Reluctantly, I looked it up.