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Bridal Suite

Bridal Suite(1939)

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teaser Bridal Suite (1939)

Neil McGill (Robert Young) is a ne'er do well aristocrat with an indulgent mother, Lillian (Billie Burke), and a reckless disregard for anyone's feelings but his own. When Bridal Suite (1939) opens, Neil is at the gym having a massage after a night out when he realizes he's late for his own wedding. He absconds with another man's suit and races to the church but finds he's missed the wedding altogether. His fiance, the fortune-hunting Abbie Bragdon (Virginia Field), future father-in-law Sir Horace Bragdon (Reginald Owen) and Neil's parents, including his furious industrialist father Cornelius McGill (Gene Lockhart) are all assembled in his apartment to inform him he's overlooked his second scheduled wedding.

In a hare-brained effort to attribute Neil's jilting of his fiance to amnesia, his mother decides to turn to psychiatrist Dr. Grauer (Walter Connolly) for the diagnosis that will excuse her son's behavior. The mother and son travel to Switzerland where the doctor is vacationing. In Switzerland, Neil meets up with the doctor's ward, a woman who should be his nemesis. In contrast to Neil's slacker ways, Luise Anzengruber (Annabella) is a highly productive, industrious and upbeat hotel owner who Neil, naturally, falls head over heels for. In the roller coaster rhythm of this screwball comedy, the pair are first estranged when Dr. Grauer informs Luise that Neil is already engaged. Then the lovers patch things up when Neil rescues Luise from an avalanche. Events change course yet again when Neil sets sail for America. Mid-voyage he is hijacked by Abbie, who arranges for an onboard wedding, but Neil jilts her once more for Luise, who has managed to sneak onto the ship.

Bridal Suite was directed by Vienna-born Wilhelm Thiele who began his career at the Vienna Conservatory and worked as a stage actor at Vienna's Burgtheater. Thiele emigrated to the United States in 1933 where among the 38 titles he directed were films for 20th Century Fox, Paramount and MGM.

Originally titled Maiden Voyage, the film's title was changed to Bridal Suite to take advantage of the fact that its star Annabella had just married Tyrone Power -- whom she met on the set of Suez (1938) -- soon after the picture was completed. The production wrap was delayed by nine days when Billie Burke broke her ankle during filming and completed her work on the film from a wheelchair. The actor Robert Blake (Barretta) made his debut in the film, as Michael Gubitosi.

Bridal Suite's star Annabella was born Suzanne Georgette Charpentier in Val-de-Marne, France. After making her film debut in 1927 she became one of the French cinema's most beloved actresses, a popularity Hollywood sought to obtain for its own. Her first English-language film was alongside Henry Fonda in Wings of the Morning (1937) which led to a string of Hollywood films. Her next role in Suez led to her meeting co-star Tyrone Power, who then became her husband (after she obtained a divorce from actor husband Jean Murat) in 1939. The couple were married despite 20th Century Fox head Darryl Zanuck's objections to his matinee idol settling down and potentially alienating his female fan base. Zanuck reportedly punished Annabella by refusing to give her film work after her transgression. After the marriage Annabella returned to France to retrieve her daughter Anne, whom Power adopted. When Power left to serve in World War II Annabella occupied herself with stage work, appearing on Broadway in Elia Kazan's Jacobowsky and the Colonel (1944). She also began an affair with the author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), knowing that Power wanted a divorce so that he could marry Judy Garland.

A notorious womanizer, Dahl later told his wife that his affair with Annabella taught him a great deal about sex. As Donald Sturrock recounts in Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl, "One person saw through Dahl's rakish, confident exterior and won his lasting affection. She was the French actress Annabella. Rich, sophisticated and sexually experienced, superficially she might have seemed yet another trophy conquest. But Annabella was different. The daughter of the man who brought scouting to France, she valued courage and loyalty as much as glamour. It was in New York, in 1939, that she married her third husband, the American actor Tyrone Power. Subsequently, she became a US citizen and patriotically toured the country, giving propaganda speeches boosting the Allied war effort. Her marriage was unconventional. Both parties felt free to indulge in outside relationships. Power was already in love with Judy Garland and, after his death, a number of stories emerged suggesting that he was also bisexual."

Cataloguing Annabella's charms to his mother, Dahl called her, "an intelligent dame and much fun." Annabella recalled of their liaison, "It was like we were twin brothers. Romantic? Not really. Physical? Sometimes. But, most important, we had a complete understanding and he trusted me."

The Power-Annabella home was the site of a terrible tragedy when, during a party game of hide-and-seek David Niven's new wife Primmie mistook the basement door for a closet door and tumbled down the steps. She died the next day. Power and Annabella divorced in 1948, though Power was said to have greatly regretted the separation. Following their breakup Annabella's Hollywood film career ebbed and flowed, though she was notable alongside James Cagney in 13 Rue Madeleine (1947). But another meeting with Zanuck about her Hollywood prospects did not go well, and Annabella returned to France where she made a few more films but never achieved the heights of her previous success.

Director: Wilhelm Thiele
Producer: Edgar Selwyn
Screenplay: Gottfried Reinhardt, Virginia Faulkner, Samuel Hoffenstein, James Kevin McGuinness
Cinematography: Clyde De Vinna
Production Design: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Bill Buddie and Arthur Guttmann
Cast: Luise Anzengruber (Annabella), Neil McGill (Robert Young), Dr. Grauer (Walter Connolly), Sir Horace Bragdon (Reginald Owen), Cornelius McGill (Gene Lockhart), Lord Helfer (Arthur Treacher), Mrs. Lillian McGill (Billie Burke), Abbie Bragdon (Virginia Field).BW-70m.

by Felicia Feaster

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