It’s been a month since I watched this amnesiac comedy so I’ve forgotten most of it, but IMDB says “Boring businessman recovers from amnesia and discovers he’s really a con man… and loves his soon-to-be-ex wife.” Starring Myrna Loy (with never enough screen time) and William Powell (better at playing amnesia/gangster than he was at playing nuts in Love Crazy).
Besides the love plot, Powell has to keep up appearances in town, running a pottery business and other organizations. It turns into a big swindle with he and his new buddy Frank McHugh (part of Cagney’s company in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) getting the local rich folk to bid against each other for some worthless land on which they’ve planted an oil spill.
I spotted Preston Sturges regular Harry Hayden at the bar in the first scene, then nobody else for the whole rest of the movie, though the children included future Lost Highway creep Robert Blake.
A high-quality womany drama full of nearly-insane plot points, the kind of thing that Douglas Sirk would be making ten years later. In fact, the title might as well have been Magnificent Obsession, with all the crazed (but ultimately justified) stalking in this movie.
Ronald Colson (of Lost Horizon and Prisoner of Zenda) is in an asylum with no memory of his past. He doesn’t know how he got there, but knows he wants out – takes advantage of WWI victory celebration to escape and meets Paula (crazy-haired Greer Garson of Mrs. Miniver the same year) who helps him get out of town. They fall in love, get married, have a baby. He gets some stories published, goes into the city for a job interview, hit by a car, whammo, his pre-asylum memory returns and he forgets his life with Paula.
Why is there a long, slow zoom into this stuffed dog?
A couple years later he’s a super rich businessman, his precocious niece (Susan Peters), is trying to marry him and Paula is his secretary under a fake name, having found him after the baby died. The niece gives up, and Colman marries Paula his true love instead. But it’s a sham marriage, for social or tax reasons, I forget exactly, and he still doesn’t remember that she’s his true love. Will he overcome his amnesia by the end of the movie and realize that he loves his wife? Yes!
Colson and Greer (afflicted with Crazy Hair):
A TCM Essential, “considered the definitive treatment of amnesia in a romantic film.” Nominated for seven oscars but won none – beaten out by Mrs. Miniver and James Cagney. Katy and I liked it an awful lot.