20th Invests in Jeanne Crain for In The Meantime, Darling (1944)
Here is one that resolutely belongs to its time.
"Dated" is pejorative too often applied to movies that can sum upbeautifully lives and circumstance past. In The
Meantime, Darling is about war wives billeted in crowded and rundown hotel
digs as spouses serve at nearby base, all under stress of men being shipped
out at moment's notice. How accurate does this reflect stateside war
conditions? Fewer can say as those who'd recall pass on. Will In The
Meantime, Darling and others like it be someday accepted as honest depict of the
time? I'm guessing it doesn't vary too wide from truth. The project began on
"B" terms, Bryan Foy of that 20th Fox unit assigned to produce, but
then came casting of Jeanne Crain in what would be a first lead for this heavy
bet on future stardom. Promising producer/director Otto Preminger was added to
enhance her showcase, $567K the ultimate negative cost thanks to careful
handling of a recognized asset. In The
Meantime, Darling would serve as loss leader, if necessary, for ingénue product Fox
counted on to pay out eventually. Conviction that newcomers sold best in pairs led to legit find Frank Latimore, "another Frankie Boy for the girls," partnering Crain, hope being that Latimore might fill void left by contract males who'd gone to serve.
Whatever Fox's intent, reality of exhibition
held Darling to modest category. Los
Angeles saw it at four venues, including Grauman's
Chinese, as tail end to Sweet and Lowdown, a bill companion nearly as humble.
Business at the four locations was judged thus: very low, weak, slow, and light.
Not one L.A.
engagement clicked. Perception, then, became reality, In The Meantime, Darling
going into Chicago first-run at same named palace where "Swing and
Sway" Sammy Kaye was the bigger noise, Darling reduced to virtual chaser
status. Swing bands as principal attraction in theatres had reached a wartime
peak, being lure to "heavy juvenile trade which normally would not
frequent top-scale Loop houses" (Film
Daily). Youth helped fill seats from early AM shows all the way to midnight
finales, exhausting work for the bands, which may be why most popular ones
demanded (and got) a whopper 50% of ticket sales. Thanks to heavy nut musicians
imposed, ownership stuck to small featuresthey could rent on flat basis, In
The Meantime, Darling among these. The spend-like-an-Arelease was thus sold-like-a-B, ultimate loss
of $130K one that Fox could regard as investment toward Jeanne Crain's emerging
value, which would be realized by following year'sState Fairand Leave Her To Heaven,
both hits. In The Meantime, Darling is available on DVD from Fox On-Demand. Quality is far from great, but I've seen worse, and got through it OK, the view reminiscent of 16mm days when titles like this were hard as heck to come by.