Two films, one tale, one Tyrone: That Wonderful Urge (1948)

I’m reviewing two Tyrone Power films that tell the same story. First up we had Love is News (1937), co-starring Loretta Young. Today, That Wonderful Urge (1948), with Gene Tierney taking on the role formerly occupied by Young. Two films, one tale, and one leading man in Tyrone Power!

Sara Farley (Gene Tierney) is the heiress to a major grocery store chain, nicknamed the “fifty million dollar baby” by the papers. The New York Chronicle has taken a particular interest in the lady, with a series of gossipy articles about her life published by Thomas Jefferson Tyler (Tyrone Power).

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

When Tom’s editor, Duffy (Lloyd Gough), wants him to dig up some actual quotes from Sara, Tom heads to Sun Valley, where Sara is vacationing. Posing as a small-town newsman who hates the big city papers’ portrayal of Sara, he wins her trust and comes to see that he’s been wrong about her. He heads back to his editor with a much more flattering article about Sara to publish.

Unfortunately for Tom, his identity is uncovered just after he leaves Sun Valley when the local paper publishes his picture with a little article about heroic war reporter Thomas Jefferson Tyler coming to town. Sara sees the story and decides to get back at Tom for lying to her, telling reporters that she and Tom married in Sun Valley.

That Wonderful Urge was directed by Robert B. Sinclair. Variety wrote that Sinclair’s update of Love is News gave “an old chestnut the flavor of a brand-new souffle.”

This film, released over ten years after Love is News, certainly does make several notable changes to the original. The opening credits may look the same (a lovely collage of newspaper front pages), and a few scenes are replicated, but the films aren’t much the same. A love triangle is introduced. The editor role originated by Don Ameche is minimized. Courtroom scenes are added. Even the name of the newspaper has been changed, from Daily Express to Chronicle!

All of these differences worked in my favor, since I watched the films back-to-back. I didn’t get bored of the story, since there are several new elements introduced. Watching the two films this way, I couldn’t help comparing them, but it was interesting to see two very different takes on the same story, featuring the same male lead.

While I appreciated the effort made to differentiate That Wonderful Urge from its predecessor, I have to disagree with that “brand-new souffle” comment. This is a decent rom-com, but nowhere near as fun as that “old chestnut” Love is News.

It pains me to write this since I usually love her, but many of my problems with That Wonderful Urge can be traced back to Gene Tierney. She gives a solid performance, as expected for an actress of her caliber, but she plays Sara with a distinct lack of mischief. Rather than carrying the revenge plot out playfully, she seems truly hurt by Tom’s headlines, and acts quite cold toward him most of the time, sort of buttoned-up and proper.

(Image via Ciak Hollywood)

(Image via Ciak Hollywood)

Where Tierney lacks mischief, Power brings it in spades. That party scene! His “mountain mama” storytelling! This makes him fun to watch individually, but makes Tom and Sara seem even more mismatched, since the banter is one-sided. Their schemes against each other have no air of light-hearted romance. There seemed to be (in my opinion, anyway) no underlying thread of attraction or love between them, which completely changes the film’s dynamics. Tom seems forceful, and Sara seems like she genuinely dislikes him.

The story is framed through the heiress, Sara, rather than through the reporter in this version of the story.  In the original, the film started with the reporter arguing with his editor. Here, it starts with Tierney — a woman on a ski trip, reacting to the cruel headlines that are being written about her, and then meeting the undercover writer of those headlines. I did like this element of the story quite a bit, as we get to see the two characters interact more before Sara gets hip to Tom’s deception and begins plotting her revenge. Along with Power’s performance, it was one of the bright spots of the film.

That Wonderful Urge came across to me as more of a standard rom-com than as a Love is News-inspired screwball comedy, which unfortunately took a lot of the fun out of the story for me. A decent watch, but I’d recommend sticking with the original. The score: 2.5/5

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