Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Penny Serenade (1941)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Penny Serenade (1941)

In director George Stevens' sentimental, classic heartbreaker, soap-opera melodrama - a preface or connecting element to each of the flashbacked episodic vignettes was the playing of a popular song on a Victrola phonograph to set the tone and bring back memories:

  • through flashbacks, the maudlin film followed the romantic courtship and married life of a couple - charming spendthrift and newspaperman Roger Adams (Best Actor-nominated Cary Grant) and his future wife Julie Gardiner (Irene Dunne)
  • ("You Were Meant For Me") - in the film's opening, Julie was working in a NYC record shop where she and Roger first met
  • by New Years Day, Roger had impulsively proposed marriage to Julie after receiving an offer to work for two years in Japan; following a hasty marriage and a quick goodbye scene at the train station, Julie couldn't leave him and remained in his train compartment (for a 45 minute honeymoon) until it was over 100 miles on its journey toward San Francisco
  • ("Poor Butterfly") a few months later, a pregnant Julie joined Roger in Japan, where they rented a large house, and had hired a couple (with three children) to work and live there; after a very brief time in Tokyo, Roger announced that they would be leaving Japan; he had received an inheritance of $10,000, and had decided to quit his newspaper job and travel around the world with Julie; their plans did not work out, however - in 1923, a major earthquake damaged their house and severely injured Julie, who suffered a miscarriage, became barren, and was hospitalized in San Francisco
  • Julie recovered, and Roger struck out on his own by purchasing a small newspaper in the small town (fictional) of Rosalia, CA, north of SF - The Rosalia Weekly Courier; they would both live in a two-story apartment (with living quarters upstairs - with a nursery - and an office downstairs); Roger also hired an old Brooklyn colleague named Apple Jack (Edgar Buchanan) as his printer and press manager
  • the despondent, childless parents decided to adopt a child, and visited an adoption agency in San Francisco to meet with kindly case worker representative Miss Oliver (Beulah Bondi); they were told that the long waiting list meant they might not have an adoptee for a year; Roger exaggerated when asked during an investigation about his finances, and bragged that he made $100 dollars a week
  • after a waiting period, they brought home a five-week old adopted baby girl named Trina (Baby Biffie) for a year's probation, although at first Roger had stated that he preferred a two-year old boy with blue eyes, dimples and curly hair; however, he immediately fell in love with the baby
  • adjusting to parenting for their first few nights was difficult - the flustered couple was exhausted after getting up all night to attend to the baby - they were nervous about keeping quiet, and also were uncertain about how to bathe and diaper the child until Apple Jack demonstrated for them
  • ("My Blue Heaven") - a year later after the probation period ended, the matronly Miss Oliver arrived to see if the adoption could be permanently approved; Roger was forced to confess that he actually had no income when he was forced to close down the paper
  • in a scene before a judge (Wallis Clark), during an impassioned speech - the film's highlight, Roger movingly begged and pleaded for the official to grant them a continuation of the adoption, rather than cruelly return the child to the orphanage: ("...the first time I saw her, she looked so little and helpless. I didn't know babies were so, so little. And then when she took a-hold of my finger and I held onto it. She, she just sort of walked into my heart Judge and, and she was there to stay. I didn't know I could feel like that... It's not only for my wife and me, I'm asking you to let us keep her Judge, it's for her sake, too. She doesn't know any parents but us. She wouldn't know what'd happened to her. You see, there's so many little things about her that nobody would understand her the way Judy and I do. We love her Judge, please don't take her away from us. Look, I'm not a big shot now, I-I'll do anything, I'll work for anybody. I-I'll beg, I'll borrow, I-I'll. Please, Judge, I'll sell anything I've got until I get going again. And she'll never go hungry, she'll never be without clothes not so long as I've got two good hands, so help me!"); through his words, he was able to convince the judge to let them retain the custody of the child
  • ("Silent Night") - six years later during Christmas, the two parents were faced some time after with the sudden and unexpected death of their six-year-old child Trina (Eva Lee Kuney) following a brief illness; as a result, the couple had become downtrodden and estranged to each other - and Roger wanted no reminders of his dead child and felt they should dissolve their marriage; the bereaving Mrs. Adams wrote a letter to the saddened Miss Oliver notifying her: ("Since the night of Trina's death, we have been like strangers to one another. I don't know what to do. It seems as if there is nothing between us any more. I've tried to talk to him, but he does not wish to listen. He is punishing himself, not realizing that he is also punishing me")
  • ("You Were Meant For Me") - now in the present, the two guilt-ridden parents Roger and Julie were still essentially separated, and felt defeated in life; unexpectedly, they received a phone call from Miss Oliver that another child - a two-year old boy, was being offered for adoption to them: ("He's the exact image of the youngster you asked for when you first wrote to me. Do you remember? I have that old letter here in front of me now - 'Curly hair, blue eyes, dimples'. And this is strictly off the record, but really, another couple has the right to see him first, but he's such a remarkable baby that I thought perhaps you and Mr. Adams might take a look")
  • the film ended on a hopeful and optimistic note - Julie responded with great anticipation that they wanted to adopt - and in the process restore their marriage: "Please don't have that other couple see him until we do!"

Miss Oliver's Receipt of Letter from Mrs. Adams

A New Adoption Possibility

Adams' Family's Adoption of Baby Girl

Roger's Plea to Judge to Keep Child

Their Daughter Trina


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