Fridays With Robert Taylor: Remember? (1939)
We belatedly close out May with one of the least interesting Robert Taylor titles I’ve watched. Remember? could rank up there as one of the most pointless movies I’ve reviewed for a Fridays With… Not because it’s poorly filmed or acted, but because of how lifelessly executed a rather fun plot is. Take the premise of Monkey Business (1952) with a dose of Design for Living (1933), but eliminate the sex and logic and you have Remember?
Sky (Lew Ayres) is set to enter into a whirlwind marriage with Linda (Greer Garson), but after Linda meets Sky’s best friend, Jeff (Taylor), Sky ends up being unceremoniously dumped. Linda and Jeff have an equally whirlwind courtship and marriage; but when Sky slips them a memory loss drug, will lightening strike twice?
Everything about Remember (for the sake of clarity, I’m eschewing the question mark for the remainder of the review) is so small-scale, which is odd considering its release during the golden year of cinema that gave us Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Even something like Dark Victory has a more overall sense of largess than this. I’m not saying big sets or gorgeous gowns would have fixed all of Remember’s problems, but this feels like a programmer, a B-picture with soon-to-be A-list stars.
You can always see the screenwriters sweat as they push the plot to 90-minutes, clocking in seven minutes shy. After Linda and Jeff marry, and experience problems they could have avoided by, you know, going on a date or something, the film literally restarts from square one with the two being doped by Sky’s amnesia drug. Giving characters love potions is nothing new in cinema, but it’s usually after years of a relationship that’s gone stale or been fraught with problems. The characters meet and marry so quickly that their problems stem from their nonexistent courtship. You can’t say these two crazy kids are destined for each other, and if they are it’s because they’re played by the likes of Garson and Taylor. And things don’t stop at just rebooting the plot. Small gags, like Jeff’s chronic lateness, are repeated ad nauseaum leaving Linda slow on the uptake; “this is becoming a habit.” How’d you guess?
The second act twist looks as if it’ll open the door for Sky to win back the woman stolen from him, but no and we’re never told why. Does he decide to step back because Jeff and Linda are meant for each other? There’s no explanation because the stars personas don’t allow for any of them to be unlikable. Beforehand the happy trio could have been a devil’s threesome a la Design for Living, but the post-Code strictures prevent anything from friendship to bubble between the three.
Remember came out the same year as another Taylor film, the swoony – and infinitely better – Lady of the Tropics, and thank goodness I already saw him as a romantic lead because in this he’s a total douche masquerading as a romantic lead. The always plucky Lew Ayres plays Sky as a man in love – or slightly more in lust than Jeff – with Linda, showing off the engagement ring he’s gonna give to her in a quirky gender role reversal. Intent on having his best friend meet his “best gal,” the trio are introduced and right away Jeff starts putting the moves on Linda…in front of his best friend! There’s an awareness we’re supposed to like these two because they’re Greer Garson and Robert Taylor, but their actions are just so rude to Sky, a man who, presumably, hasn’t done anything to warrant such callous treatment. When the two start squabbling, just desserts for being garbage people, Jeff immediately gets suspicious of Sky visiting there house as if the script has amnesia. The frustration is endless.
I’ve been eager to watch Lew Ayres in something else since discovering him in Holiday (1938), so here’s hoping there’s better work in his filmography. He gives off a Red Skelton vibe here as the nice guy upstaged by the shiny pretty boy. Taylor is serviceable as Jeff but the character’s devoid of any personality other than his penchant for lateness and being a horrid friend. I’ve failed to find the appeal in Greer Garson. No matter the role there’s a coldness to her and she’s no better in a romantic comedy like this. There’s little chemistry between her and Taylor, and it’s near impossible figuring out what drew her to Sky short of being the only male on-board. Bringing some much needed levity is the always reliable Billie Burke as Linda’s daffy mother. Burke’s exuberance is contagious and her naivety is joyful. A line like “Her new dress is sprawled across the bed, but she isn’t in it” just draws giggles.
A game Lew Ayres can’t make up for Remember’s flaws. Taylor looks to be phoning it in and Garson is just too cold in a comedic role. Don’t worry if you don’t end up remembering anything in Remember. I doubt the cast did.
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Kristen Lopez View All
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.
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