Steve (Pat O’Brien) is in love with Elaine (Myrna Loy)… but she’s left him and married someone she thinks is a better suitor. Mary (Irene Dunne), likewise, is in love with a man named Aubrey (Lester Vail)… but he’s left her behind for someone else.
Heartbroken Steve and Mary become friends, finding comfort in their shared unhappiness at being left behind by those they adored. Both remain in love with those who left them, but they decide to marry each other — a “consolation marriage,” which they both agree will be passionless but will at least provide them some sense of companionship.
Complications ensue as Steve and Mary hold on to their former flames, but also come to enjoy each other’s company quite well. Can love be found between two shattered hearts, or will the arrangement end in disaster?
Paul Sloane directs 1931’s Consolation Marriage, from a story by Bill Cunningham.
The plot of Consolation Marriage takes several turns toward melodrama, though there are also plenty of lighter, sweeter moments as Steve and Mary get to know each other. (In one scene, Steve and Mary have a pillow fight, which of course ends in a smooch.) And the whole ordeal wraps up with a very happy Hollywood ending.
The performances are a tad shaky at times on part of Lester Vail and, quite surprisingly, Myrna Loy, who seems unnatural in the scene where she tells Steve she is married. Irene Dunne and Pat O’Brien, however, are both great, and since they’re the focus of the film, the weaker moments of acting aren’t too distracting. Dunne’s character of Mary is very sweet and the actress wins the audience over from the start.
This isn’t the most fast-paced film. It runs at about 80 minutes but feels a tad longer, though it isn’t so slow that it becomes dull or tedious. Irene Dunne makes sure of that! The audience stays hooked into the film regardless of the pace through investment in her character.
I’ve also got to give Consolation Marriage a little puppy bonus. Mary and Steve attend a dog show early on in the film, and adopt an adorable St. Bernard puppy! A fuzzy, chubby St. Bernard puppy. Be still, my heart!
Consolation Marriage is no career-best for anyone involved, but it is a decent little watch, with a cute romance and a touch of drama that attempts to ruin it (while never posing too serious a threat). I would recommend this one to Irene Dunne fans in particular. The score: 3/5