Love Crazy was such a great film that the temptation to binge and go straight back to Powell and Loy was too great. I pride myself on my self-control, but… it’s far more effective when I actually want to exercise it. This contrives us right into the first few minutes of I Love You Again. In it, Powell is Larry Wilson, a man with far too much self-control for anyone’s good… his wife included. He’s an upstanding community member of some small nowheresville town – a complete caricature who doesn’t have any vices whatsoever or have fun beyond endless meetings of pretty much every local community group.
Luckily for him, a bump on the head while on a cruise fixes everything, and he’s back to his original self – George Carey – a complete scoundrel who’s fond of a drink or three. As he tries to piece together what has happened to him over the past nine years he hatches a plan to use his influence to swindle the townsfolk, with the aid of his new-found partner in tricks, Frank McHugh. One thing the plan didn’t count on was the surprise package – boring old Larry Wilson is married to the most beautiful woman imaginable – Myrna Loy. Carey can’t believe his luck… until he finds out that she wants a divorce. Can the swindle survive Carey’s red-blooded attempts to win the affection of woman of his dreams – his wife?
Okay, so it’s an amnesia film. Some might say that the set-up stinks… but it doesn’t. It’s only the set-up and nothing more. After this we’re not endlessly bounced over and back between personalities with new unknowns being thrown in to aid resolution, thus cheating the viewer. I Love You Again washes its hands and punches above the belt once the scene is set. It’s also funny enough to make more amnesia films sound like a good idea. There probably hadn’t been many by 1940. Two years later and Powell would be in another – Crossroads – from Jack Conway and co-starring Hedy Lamarr (added it to my list for future viewing).
What does I Love You Again offer that other Powell-Loy films don’t? Nothing. It suffers from all the usual afflictions – great comic acting, funny dialogue and situation after situation of you-know-hilarity-is-on-its-way. It even survives the involvement of a group of children… and I laughed through some of its “Ewok” moment. If there is something a bit different here it’s the chemistry. Both actors have the same great chemistry as usual, but this time the amnesia set-up delivers something a little new: Loy’s character doesn’t realise that the cold-blooded husband she wants to divorce has evolved into a mammal, and one of the most hot-blooded wolves imaginable. This gives their one-on-one scenes something extra, as Loy plays the innocent little lamb, still perhaps harbouring feelings for the husband she doesn’t realise would break down a door to get to her. The spark that was missing from her marriage is there and in some of these scenes you’re not sure just when it might make contact with some TNT… or has Powell learned that self-control he might need to pull off his little scheme and leave with the cash? It’s beautifully contrived as it makes these scenes almost agonising: can there be many men out there who wouldn’t know what to do where they are alone with a woman they’re crazy about who loves them… and they happen to be married (probably important in 1940)? All Loy needs to do is show him that the ice is thawing and… fireworks. Because of this, the focus is triply on Loy in their joint close-ups. She has such a remarkably expressive face that’s almost too lovely for this world. Not something that doesn’t attract attention (and all matter to its doom) like a black hole anyway, but the tension in these scenes is almost unbearable… and each time you think that face might have weakened to Powell’s charms, the comic superior-harshness she’s so good at returns.
It’s beyond comprehension that Loy was never even nominated for an Academy Award – when it comes to comic acting she really was one of the very best. In 1991 this was rectified and Myrna was given an honorary award for acting. After seeing Myrna in quite a few films it really did warm my heart to see her accept the award, two years before her death.
In case it wasn’t obvious, I Love You Again is a really fun, worthwhile comedy. Not close to the level of Love Crazy, but there are only a limited number of Powell-Loy comedies and everyone’s life is long enough for all of them.