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But Not for Me

But Not for Me(1959)

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Fifty-six-year-old Broadway producer Russell Ward returns to New York City from a business trip and is inundated with requests for his time from his ex-wife, former actress Kathryn Ward, alcoholic playwright Jeremiah MacDonald and Roy Morton, a magazine reporter. Russ boldly tells Roy that, contrary to rumors, his current play, Give Me Your Hand , is not having script troubles and that they will have a successful tryout run in Boston in five weeks. In reality, the play, about a middle-aged man having an affair with a twenty-two-year-old woman, is suffering from script problems, and the exhausted Mac, who has not had a hit in years due to his drinking, wants to quit. Russ is also pressured by his business manager, Miles Atwood, and lawyer, Charles Montgomery, who chide him about overextending himself financially. Russ is somewhat cheered by a genial, verbal sparring match with the sophisticated Kathryn, who gives him a music box to celebrate the fourth anniversary of their divorce. Russ and Mac ponder the script complications, which Russ believes stem from the dislike the audience will feel for the protagonist when he pursues the much-younger woman. Russ, who refuses to admit to his real age, instead insisting that he is in his early forties, encourages Mac to work harder, but when he goes home, tells his adoring, young secretary, Eleanor Brown, that he is retiring. Russ orders Ellie to lay off the staff and attempts to treat her to a lavish farewell gift, but Ellie retorts that she is in love with him and that he has "ruined" her for any other man. Inspired by Ellie's fiery speech, Russ dashes to Mac's to tell him that the solution to their quandary is to have the heroine pursue the protagonist rather than vice versa, thereby avoiding any implication of lechery on the part of the man. Soon after, Russ dictates Ellie's speech back to her as new dialogue for the play, and when she protests, he embraces her and assures her that they are going to build a future together. Energized, Russ, Mac and Ellie spend the next five weeks rewriting the play, although Mac reprimands Russ for playing with Ellie's emotions by allowing her to believe that he loves her. When they complete the script, Russ invites them to Kathryn's Long Island mansion for the weekend, and there they meet with Russ and Kathryn's longtime friend, movie mogul Demetrios Bacos. While reading a scene for Bacos, Ellie, a drama student, so impresses the others with her talent that Bacos decides to invest in the play and Kathryn encourages Russ to cast Ellie in the lead. Kathryn later admits to Mac that she still loves Russ, despite his perpetual search for youth and her frequent jibes about his real age. When Russ calls Miles to inform him that Bacos wants to invest in the play, Miles tells him that a mysterious new investment group, Angels, Ltd., has backed the show fully, and so rehearsals begin with Ellie in the lead. Gordon Reynolds, who has studied drama with Ellie and is in love with her, is cast as the young man who attempts to romance the heroine away from the protagonist. Still believing herself to be in love with Russ, Ellie proposes to him, but he gently tells her that they should wait until the play is running to decide their future. The play receives lukewarm reviews upon its tryout in Boston, sending Mac into a drunken binge and Ellie into a depression, but Russ and Kathryn encourage them both and soon the play is polished and ready for the New York opening. Their hard work pays off when the play is a success, and after opening night, Russ takes Ellie to Central Park to romance her. Russ again demurs when Ellie proposes, but while he is in California to discuss the play's screen rights with Bacos, he persuades himself that he should marry her despite the vast difference in their ages and rushes back to New York. When he goes to Ellie's apartment, however, he finds Gordon, drunk and passed out on Ellie's bed. Ellie explains that Gordon came by to protest his love for her yet again, although she maintains that she turned him down. Finally believing her, Russ sends her to the theater for an upcoming performance while he stays behind to sober up Gordon. At the theater, Kathryn gives Ellie a photo of Russ that she has kept for years in her own dressing room, and advises her that Russ is using her in his attempt to surround himself with youth. Stung by Kathryn's words, Ellie glumly compares her own recent photo of Russ to that of him as a vibrant young man. Back at Ellie's apartment, when Gordon bitterly declares that Ellie loves him, Russ proposes a test to determine which one of them Ellie loves. Russ tells Gordon to confess his love to Ellie after the play, and later that night, when Ellie comes to Russ's apartment, Russ will detail all the reasons why she should not marry him. After the performance, Gordon passionately confronts Ellie, who admits that she loves him more than she loves Russ, but still feels obligated to marry Russ if he wants her. Russ, thrilled at the idea of proposing to Ellie, greets her happily when she arrives, then, as he agreed with Gordon, tells her all the reasons why she should not marry him. Misunderstanding, Ellie assumes that Russ is ending their relationship so that she can be with Gordon, and Russ selflessly wishes her well. Several days later, Mac visits Russ, who has gone on a drunken bender but is now ready to face his age and responsibilities. Mac congratulates Russ and reminds him that Kathryn has been waiting a long time for him to mature emotionally. Russ agrees to go with Mac to the French Riviera to work on a new play, but while Mac is away buying their tickets, a distraught Ellie storms into Russ's apartment. Although she and Gordon were married only an hour earlier, Ellie is determined to obtain an annulment, as Gordon has decreed that they quit the theater immediately and move to his hometown in Montana. Russ hustles Ellie into the bedroom to hide when Gordon pounds on the front door, and after counseling Gordon to reconcile with his bride, ushers him into the bedroom, only to discover that Ellie has removed her clothes and climbed into Russ's bed in the hopes of making Gordon file for an annulment. Kathryn, who had been called into the city by Mac, enters and reasons with the bickering trio. While Gordon and Ellie resolve to stay married and remain in the theater, Russ reveals to Kathryn that he has uncovered that she is the owner of Angels, Ltd. Although Russ is exasperated with Kathryn for gambling her alimony on the play, she states that she had faith in him. Mac then returns, triumphantly waving three tickets to France, and a happy Kathryn and Russ decide to remarry.