Penny Serenade

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Penny Serenade
Penny Serenade 1941 Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Stevens
Produced by George Stevens
Screenplay by Morrie Ryskind
Based on Penny Serenade
1940 short story (McCalls
by Martha Cheavens
Music by W. Franke Harling
Cinematography Joseph Walker
Edited by Otto Meyer
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • April 24, 1941 (1941-04-24) (USA)
Running time
119 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $835,000[1]

Penny Serenade is a 1941 film melodrama starring Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Beulah Bondi, and Edgar Buchanan. The picture was directed by George Stevens, written by Martha Cheavens and Morrie Ryskind, and depicts the story of a loving couple who must overcome adversity to keep their marriage and raise a child. Grant was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.

Plot summary[edit]

While listening to a recording of "You Were Meant for Me," Julie Gardiner Adams (Irene Dunne) begins reflecting on her past. Roger (Cary Grant) and Julie Adams get married and she is due to have a child, but they suffer a tragedy when she miscarries in an earthquake during their 1930 stay in Japan. They are told that she can never have children. They request to adopt a two-year-old boy, but ultimately adopt a baby girl named Trina. They struggle to make ends meet and to retain their parental rights when Roger's newspaper-publishing business fails. When Trina messes up during a school play, her teacher Miss Oliver says she can never be in another play, saddening her. A letter is later sent to Miss Oliver by Julie: It explains Trina got sick and died and now she and Rodger are not talking to each other. To make matters worse the emotional strain threatens to destroy their marriage. Songs mark episodes in the action from records from their collection;the title refers to a song of the same name. In the end, they are offered the opportunity to adopt a little boy who matches their original request, saving their marriage.


The part of Trina was played by two pairs of identical twins at different ages.[2]


Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in Penny Serenade

Time said "Grant and Dunne cannot overcome the ten-little-fingers-and-ten-little-toes plot. Written by scripter Morrie Ryskind, produced and directed by George Stevens (Alice Adams), it is too often a moving picture which does not move. Skillful direction saves it from turning maudlin."[2] Bosley Crowther, in a somewhat ambivalent review, concludes "some very credible acting on the part of Mr. Grant and Miss Dunne is responsible in the main for the infectious quality of the film. Edgar Buchanan, too, gives an excellent performance as a good-old-Charlie friend, and Beulah Bondi is sensible as an orphanage matron. Heart-warming is the word for both of them. As a matter of fact, the whole picture deliberately cozies up to the heart. Noël Coward once drily observed how extraordinarily potent cheap music is. That is certainly true of Penny Serenade."[3]

Grant was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, losing at the 14th Academy Awards to Gary Cooper's portrayal of Sergeant York.

On the film review website Rotten Tomatoes, Penny Serenade receives a "Fresh" rating with 93% (15 of 16) of its T-meter critics reviewed the film positively.[4]


Penny Serenade was dramatized as a half-hour radio play on the November 16, 1941 broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in their original roles.[citation needed] It was also presented as an hour-long drama on Lux Radio Theater, first on April 27, 1942 with Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck, then on May 8, 1944 with Joseph Cotten and Irene Dunne.[citation needed] Dunne again starred in July 1953 on CBS Radio's General Electric Theater.[5]

A television adaptation for Lux Video Theatre, starring Phyllis Thaxter, was broadcast in January 1955 on NBC.[6]

Copyright status[edit]

The film was released by Columbia Pictures, with George Stevens' production firm owning the copyright. In 1968, the film went into the public domain.[7] The original elements are now with Viacom, via the company's former Republic Pictures library.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dick, Bernard Dick (1993). The Merchant Prince of Poverty Row: Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, p. 160.
  2. ^ a b "The New Pictures". Time. May 5, 1941. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  3. ^ Bosley Crowther (May 23, 1941). "Cary Grant and Irene Dunne Play a Penny Serenade at the Music Hall". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  4. ^ Penny Serenade. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 2008-08-13.
  5. ^ "RADIO: Program Preview". Time. July 20, 1953. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  6. ^ "TELEVISION: Program Preview". Time. January 17, 1955. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Penny Serenade". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-13. 

External links[edit]

Streaming audio