About Merrily We Go to Hell

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Comedy, Drama

Merrily We Go to Hell—the title drawn from the leading man’s favorite toast—captured one of the leading excesses of pre-Code cinema: a heavy emphasis on heavy drinking. Society heiress Joan Prentice (Sylvia Sidney) meets and marries alcoholic newspaperman and self-styled playwright Jerry Corbett (Fredric March), inspiring him to kick his habit—for a little while. Jerry finds success as a playwright, but eventually relapses, which leads to infidelity. Joan then decides the two will have a “modern marriage” and seeks revenge in the arms of other men, including a tryst with the impressive Charlie Baxter (a pre-stardom Cary Grant). It was Arzner’s last film at Paramount, whose support of her had grown tepid; Arzner went on to work as an independent rather than take a pay cut. Preservation print courtesy of Universal Pictures.

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