The 35th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was — wait a minute? I’m on my 35th Fabulous Forties review? Let’s see — there’s 50 films in the box set so that means that I only have 15 more of these to write and I’ll be done! And then I can move onto the Nifty Fifties, the Sensation Sixties, the Swinging Seventies, and the Excellent Eighties! YAY!
Anyway, where was I?
Oh yeah, the 35th film.
First released in 1941, That Uncertain Feeling is a movie about sophisticated people doing silly things. Socialite Jill Baker (Merle Oberon) gets the hiccups whenever she gets nervous or irritated. Her trendy friends suggest that she try the new big thing: seeing a psychoanalyst! At first, Jill is reluctant but eventually, she gives in to the pressures of high society and she goes to visit Dr. Vengard (Alan Mowbray). Dr. Vengard tells her that her hiccups are a result of her marriage to Larry (Melvyn Douglas) and suggests that the best way to cure them would be to get a divorce.
At first, Jill is horrified at the suggestion. Whatever will people think if she gets a divorce!? However, Larry is kind of a condescending jerk. (Or, at least, he comes across as being a jerk when viewed by 2016 standards. By 1941 standards, I imagine he’s supposed to be quite reasonable.) And Jill happens to meet another one of Vengard’s patients, an outspoken pianist named Alexander Sebastian (Burgess Meredith).
Soon, Jill is not only contemplating getting a divorce from Larry but perhaps marrying the eccentric Sebastian as well! When Larry realizes that Jill is dissatisfied with their marriage and that she is attracted to Sebastian, he gives her a divorce. He even pretends to be an abusive husband so that she can file for divorce on grounds of cruelty. (It’s funnier than it sounds.) Jill and Sebastian get engaged but, once Larry starts to date again, Jill realizes that she’s not quite over her ex…
I was really excited when I saw that The Uncertain Feeling was an Ernst Lubitsch film. Lubitsch directed some of my favorite Golden Age comedies, films like Ninotchka and Heaven Can Wait. But That Uncertain Feeling is not quite up to the standard of the other Lubitsch films that I’ve seen. As played by Burgess Meredith, Sebastian never comes across as being a realistic rival to Larry. The character is so cartoonishly eccentric that it becomes impossible to see what Jill sees in him. At the same time, Larry comes across as being such a chauvinist that it’s far easier to understand why Jill would divorce him than why she would ever want to take him back. The end result is a rare Lubitsch misfire.
However, as long as we’re talking about Lubitsch, make sure to see The Smiling Lieutenant if you get the chance. Now, that’s a good Lubitsch film…
(And be sure to follow it up with The Love Parade...)