One of the reasons why I love participating in blogathons is because it gives me the opportunity to watch films I might have never seen otherwise. In Name Only is a fantastic example! Before signing up for The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon, I had no idea that this film existed. After searching Carole’s filmography on IMDB and discovering the ability to rent the movie, I felt that In Name Only was a good choice for this review. Even though I had heard of Carole Lombard before, I had never seen any of her films. My participation in this particular blogathon gave me the opportunity to finally check out her acting work! Another surprise I discovered was that the film is based on a book! The source material for the project is Memory of Love by Bessie Breuer. Similar to my discovery of the film, I was not aware of this book’s existence before I watched the movie. Maybe in the future, I’ll check this story out! But, for now, let’s check out this review of In Name Only!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Like I said in the introduction, this is the first film from Carole’s filmography I’ve ever seen. Despite this, I was impressed with her performance in this film! Her portrayal of Julie Eden showcased an on-screen personality that appeared down-to-earth. Whenever her character was frustrated by the divorce process, her performance became heart-breaking. Carole’s sad demeanor created the opportunity for audience members to sympathize with Julie. Prior to watching In Name Only, the only film from Cary Grant’s filmography I’d seen was The Philadelphia Story. Because that movie was a romantic-comedy, it gave me the chance to see Cary take on a more dramatic role in this picture. Throughout the story, Cary’s character, Alec Walker, embodied the serious and charming nature of a gentlemen. For more sad and heart-breaking moments, his performance was very captivating to watch. A great example is when Alec is staying at the hospital. Since his health is deteriorating, his mental health is also affected. This is portrayed very well by Cary, as he adopts a distant stare and disjointed speech pattern that reflect his character’s state.
The on-screen chemistry: I enjoyed watching the on-screen performances of Carole Lombard and Cary Grant! One reason is their on-screen chemistry. Every time they appeared in a scene together, there was always a sense of genuine sweetness between them. This allowed their characters to appear like they truly loved one another. It also makes viewers want to see this on-screen couple resolve their issues. For me, the quality of Carole and Cary’s on-screen chemistry helped me stay invested in their characters and their relationship!
How the topic of divorce was handled: In my review of Marriage on the Rocks, I talked about how the movie’s view on divorce made me feel uncomfortable. This was because of the one-sided perspective the movie presented. When it comes to In Name Only, the topic of divorce was handled with maturity and reverence to all the parties involved in the film’s story. While there was an antagonist, this creative choice was meant to show the audience that divorce can sometimes become messy and complicated. Unlike Marriage on the Rocks, In Name Only treats divorce as a realistic yet difficult situation. I’ve never read the book this movie is based on. However, I’m hoping the book handled the subject of divorce as well as the film did.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A drawn-out conflict: I understand the divorce process can be very time-consuming. But within the context of the film’s story, this conflict was drawn-out for the majority of the run-time. It got to the point where I could see audience members becoming just as frustrated as the protagonists were. Now, I’m not sure if this shared frustration was intentional on the screenwriter’s or author’s part. However, I do know that because of this creative choice, it didn’t leave a lot of room for a pay-off.
Under-utilized characters: As I was watching this film, I came across some under-utilized characters. Maida’s friend, Suzanne, is just one example. The actress who portrayed this character, Helen Vinson, did a really good job with the role she was given. But her character wasn’t able to do much in the story. This caused Helen to have very little material to work with.
Run-time that was a little too long: IMDB says that In Name Only is an hour and thirty-four minutes. However, I feel some minutes could have been shaved off. Had this movie’s run-time been an hour and fifteen or twenty minutes, certain events in the movie could have happened sooner. It also could have gotten rid of scenes that felt like time-wasters. One of these scenes, to give you an example, was when Maida was talking to her in-laws during a car-ride.
My overall impression:
Even though In Name Only is the first film of Carole Lombard’s I have seen, it is a film that I did like! There are aspects of the movie that could have made the overall project stronger. However, its merits overshadow them. The biggest highlight is how the story handles the subject of divorce. Throughout the story, I could sense the creative team knew exactly what they were doing. The screenwriting provided a sense of realism to the narrative, giving the characters thoughts and feelings that might emerge from a situation like this. The divorce itself was also taken very seriously. If you’re interested in watching a film about this topic, please pick In Name Only over something like Marriage on the Rocks. As I’ve said before, I feel that starting or ending a romantic relationship is not something that should be taken lightly. In Name Only not only recognizes that, but highlights that through the interactions of the characters.
Overall score: 7.4 out of 10
Have you ever seen Carole Lombard’s movies? If so, which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!
11 thoughts on “Take 3: In Name Only Review”
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It has been many years since I last saw In Name Only but your review brought many memories back to me.
Carole Lombard is very versatile and I enjoy many of her movies, especially the mystery spoof The Princess Comes Across, the manic screwball Twentieth Century and the Lubitsch classic To Be or Not to Be. Over the years, I have become more fond of Hitchcock’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith as well.
I’m sure you’ll enjoy getting to know more of Carole’s filmography.
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Thank you for reading my review, Patricia! Also, thanks for the film recommendations! I’ll try to watch these as soon as possible!
You’ve got a lot to see from both Carole and Cary (Kay Francis too, for that matter)!
I’m Vincent from Carole & Co., and if I had to recommend Lombard for newcomers, I’d begin with “My Man Godfrey” (1936), arguably her most famous role. It’s perhaps the greatest screwball comedy ever made, with a subtle but solid social message attached to it. Plus she has superlative comic chemistry with ex-husband William Powell (they remained friends following their 1933 divorce). Your list should also include “Twentieth Century,” “Hands Across The Table” and her final film, the sublime dark comedy “To Be Or Not To Be.”
Incidentally, Lombard was de facto producer for this film, and worked behind the scenes to have Francis hired and third-billed. Kay was a big star in the early ’30s, but fell out of favor with Warners and was dropped by the studio in early 1939. Carole worked with Francis in the 1931 programmer “Ladies’ Man,” and they had stayed on good terms.
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Thanks for reading my review and letting me join the blogathon, Vincent! I was not aware of Carole’s producing credit for ‘In Name Only’, so I’m glad to receive that tidbit of information. I also appreciate your film recommendations, as I’ll have to check them out as soon as I can!
Lombard really was more involved in producing her final two films, but she always exerted her influence on matters such as casting. Her pivotal performance came opposite John Barrymore in “Twentieth Century”; three years later, he was struggling, and Carole not only helped him get a supporting role in “True Confession,” but insisted he be third-billed. Had Lombard lived longer, she probably would have produced many films, including several she might not have acted in.
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I had not known about her casting abilities until you shared this. Perhaps she could have become a casting director as well as a producer?
It was more of a favor to friends in the industry, and both Barrymore and Francis qualified. Lombard loved the film industry and was renowned for her generosity.
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Thanks for posting. My father, Gene Rizzi, was in Carole Lombard’s last film, “To Be or Not to Be.” He said she was terrific off screen as well.
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You’re welcome and thanks for checking out my review! I’ve heard nothing but good things about Carole, so I’m looking forward to seeing her other acting work!
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Thanks for directing me over here from your Against the Crowd post.
I LOVE In Name Only! Carole and Cary are wonderful together and have a warm chemistry with each other. You really pull for them to make it work.
Helen Vinson is a real bitch as Suzanne, but the acerbic busybody was one of her specialties. I’m always happy to see Charles Coburn and Nella Walker show up in any film and they’re good in the film if underused. The rest of the supporting cast is stacked with a who’s who of character actors from the period but for me the film is stolen lock, stock and barrel by Kay Francis as the rapacious Maida.
She’s so deliciously and purposely evil. You mentioned that the main conflict was drawn out but that is entirely because of Maida’s devious machinations. There’s no softening to her at any point, true it’s explained how she made her bargain and lost someone she loved but she did it knowingly and she’s cold and merciless throughout. She would have been perfect for noir and had this been made about five years later it might have led her there but by that time she was through in film. A pity, she’s phenomenal.
Over the years I’ve managed to see all of Carole’s extant films, it’s been tough with some and honestly some of the hardest to find were the least rewarding-it took her a while to grow into her presence and also for the studios to figure out how to use her.
Here’s my top 10 for her if it helps you become more familiar with her work:
Hands Across the Table
The Princess Comes Across
In Name Only
To Be or Not To Be
Swing High, Swing Low
My Man Godfrey
Love Before Breakfast
You might notice that two of her better known films-Nothing Sacred and No Man of Her Own-didn’t make the top 10. Nothing Sacred is too manic for me though Carole and Fredric March give it their all. Outside of the novelty of the Gable/Lombard pairing before they were involved the second film is just another programmer.