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Week-End Marriage
October 11, 2006

Grumpy mood today because I stayed up too late finishing a forgettable old movie, Week-End Marriage. It’s 1932, and Loretta Young’s boyfriend doesn’t want to marry her because he doesn’t make enough money. (He only gets $40 a week.) She says they’ll be fine if they both keep working.

Soon, they’re married, and after she earns a raise and he’s given a pay cut, she’s making more than he is. (Her boss loves her, in more than one sense.) This apparently justifies him going out, getting drunk, and winding up in jail overnight. When she goes to bail him out, she also has to pay the fine for the floozy (you know she’s a floozy because she’s platinum blonde) picked up with him.

She gets a promotion and a transfer to St. Louis. He refuses to go, even though he doesn’t have a job any more. She goes and does quite well, until she gets a telegram (on the night of the extravagant birthday party her boss has thrown for her!) that her husband is deathly ill. She rushes back on the late-night mail plane, only to be stopped at the door by the doctor.

Hubby is living with the floozy, who’s been taking care of him during this death-risking bout of pneumonia. Doctor says he’s touch and go, and any excitement will kill him. Until he’s through the worst of it over that very afternoon (doctor has very good prediction skills), wife must wait in the parlor while floozy and doctor nurse husband.

Doctor gives wife an outrageously chauvanistic speech about how the country will fall apart unless “modern girls” quit working and devote all their time to taking care of their husbands. Wife learns her lesson, and as soon as doctor gives permission, rushes in to tell husband that she’s back for good. Apparently, that kind of excitement is ok for him. (Floozy gives up without a fight.)

So what did I learn from this film? That wives who make more than their husbands aren’t considered wives anymore, and husbands will die without wives who do nothing but make their dinners and darn their socks. Somehow, no one stops to think that she’s got a job and he doesn’t and he isn’t very good at keeping one and it’s the Depression!

For a period viewpoint, here’s the 1932 NY Times review.

4 Responses  
Rachel N. writes:  

Yuck. Considering the circumstances (with his unemployment and his attitude), she should have kept the job and let him live with the floozy (the floozy alone should have been cause for divorce). Nice scare tactics: Women, if you get a job to actually support your family because your husband is a loser slacker, he’ll end up shacking up with a platinum blonde cardboard cutout!

Something tells me he would have gone that way anyway. I can easily imagine him becoming an abusive drunk when he has no job and a wife and kids to support.

There’s nothing wrong with being a housewife. And there’s nothing wrong with being a house-husband, either!

Gosh I love old movies.

 
Johanna writes:  

There are a lot of good ones out there, but this one wasn’t one of them. I didn’t even mention the subplot about a friend whose brother forced her to marry an old thuggish bootlegger.

 
David Oakes writes:  

Sounds more like a Hays Code version of “Friday the 13th”. Truckloads of nubile teens having sex, but in the end it is OK because they are all dead. And aren’t you ashamed for watching all of it, yes you are…

Or perhaps more accurately pre-Rosie the Riviter “Feminist Porn”. Yes, Virginia, you can get a job, and yes you can be more successful than your husband, and yes you can make it on your own. But oh no, the credits are about to roll, so quick, give that stock speech about how all of this is purely for educational purposes, does not appeal to the prurient interests, and no one out in the audience better do any of this stuff, because it is wrong worng wrong.

I need a cigarette.

 
Johanna writes:  

That’s true, there are a ton of women’s movies from the 1930s and 40s where the tacked-on “proper” ending that supports the status quo isn’t at all the point.

 

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