Posted by Larry Gleeson
Jack Conway of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) directed Love Crazy, the first film I viewed at the 2017 TCM Film Festival, dedicated to recently deceased, long-time TCM Host and film historian, Robert Osborne. The film screened at the historic Hollywood Egyptian Theatre, built in 1922, after a brief introductory backdrop of the film by special TCM guest, Dana Delaney.
Love Crazy was the tenth film (out of the fourteen the two made together) in seven years by the leading couple of William Powell and Myrna Loy. The duo was best known for their high brow quips and playful banter starting in 1934 with the pre-code, comedy-mystery, The Thin Man. Powell and Loy would go on to make five additional Thin Man movies; After the Thin Man (1936), Another Thin Man (1939), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941), The Thin Man Goes Home (1944), and Song of the Thin Man (1947).
Love Crazy opens with the familiar quips and double entendres as the couple they portray, Susan and Steve Ireland, is ready to celebrate four years of marriage together. To celebrate their anniversary, Steve insists they replicate their first dinner as a married couple. Only this time he stipulates they have dinner backwards to avoid him having to undertake a rather unpleasant task that took place at the beginning of their first shared meal as man and wife.
Without missing a beat, Susan’s mother, played by Florence Bates, shows up and immediately begins meddling in the couple’s affairs. Steve’s old flame, played by sweltering Gail Patrick, living down below the couple doesn’t help matters. Before long, a series of misunderstandings has Susan filing for divorce. A bewildered Steve discovers if he can fake madness, he can eventually be remanded to Susan’s custody for a period of five years if the Lunacy Commission warrants his release from custody. In a series of madcap situations where Steve pretends to have lost his grip on reality, he manages to get his way.
Yet, even the best laid plans can go awry. One of the high society doctors had crossed paths with Steve and was now serving on the insane asylum release board. Steve eventually escapes from the insane asylum in an outrageous sequence of events. Soon an all points bulletin is issued and an ensuing manhunt takes place as law enforcement officers begin searching the apartment building one apartment at a time. To keep the police, and almost everyone else at bay, Steve decides to go in drag (as Steve’s sister). In doing so, Powell shaves his trademark mustache for the only time in his silver screen career.
Love Crazy is generally regarded by critics as the zaniest of their films together. At it’s most basic level, it’s a marriage farce full of slapstick, references to Freudian psychology and an abundance of physical comedy.
And, MGM does it’s part with impeccable set designs and an abundance of supporting acting talent. The Irelands’ downstairs neighbor, who tries to help Susan pick up the pieces of her life, is a bumptious athlete in the form of Warner Bros. talent Jack Carson. In addition, the lead doctor from the insane asylum is well-known, dialect comic, Sig Ruman.
The film was shot in black and white and had a run time of 99 minutes. The seamless manner exhibited between Powell and Loy never really lets the audience believe the two will end up in divorce. Nevertheless, it doesn’t keep them from pushing the marital boundaries to the edge. Powell looked strong and full of vigor having recently married Diana Lewis, a woman twenty-six years his junior. Reportedly, the two had only known each other three weeks before marrying and would stay married for forty-two years. Loy, on the other hand, had recently separated and her performance had melancholic overtones. Love Crazy was listed as one of the top ten films of the year.
I recommend Love Crazy. And, if at all possible, see it the way it was made to be seen – on the big screen!