Readers Write In #519: Classics on YouTube #5 – Made for Each Other (1939)

Posted on October 23, 2022


By ​Vijay Ramanathan

Note: YouTube’s vast repository includes a multitude of wonderful movies in many languages – some hidden gems, and some that are hard to find elsewhere. In this series of articles, I will share some of my favorite classic movies freely available on YouTube, along with a brief analysis. The videos are not posted by me, and I do not benefit from anyone viewing them.

Carole Lombard! She’s the headline of Made for Each Other. Lombard, and her chemistry with a perfectly cast, James Stewart, make this otherwise uneven movie so very watchable. Directed by John Cromwell, Made for Each Other is an ill-balanced romantic comedy-cum-melodrama that works in parts but ultimately doesn’t elevate itself beyond a serviceable one-time watch. Lombard elevates every scene she’s in and carries this movie on her shoulders. One can only wonder how many more fantastic characters she would have portrayed if not for her untimely demise. 

The movie starts out like a funny rom-com, steers into drama territory, and ends firmly in melodrama land. We start the movie with a sudden wedding between John Mason (Stewart) and Jane (Lombard). John’s an unimportant, timid lawyer at a law firm where he hopes for a growing career. He lacks self confidence, and is unable to stand up for himself. Jane is his backbone. She’s there to make him resilient, self-assured, and courageous. They truly are made for each other. Their marriage, however, commences on an iffy note. John’s mother, Harriett (Lucille Watson), isn’t too happy about it, and Jane wonders if they never should have married. From this point on, we witness various episodes in the couple’s life as they navigate its highs and lows. There’s a non-starter honeymoon, a flop dinner for John’s boss, a lost job promotion, unreliable maids, job dissatisfaction, money troubles, a baby, and so on. 

Lombard’s Jane feels very natural and real in this environment. When she’s trying to not lose it with her nitpicky mother-in-law, you can just feel her frustration. When she’s the tired new mother of a crying baby, you can feel her fatigue. Expressions navigate Lombard’s face effortlessly. There’s a lovely scene that starts out with John returning home dejected from his class reunion, and ends with Jane motivating him to ask his boss for a raise and a promotion. This portion truly captures the essence of these characters and why they belong together. Lombard and Stewart play off each other so well!

Most of the narrative is predictable but Cromwell handles the scenes well and keeps us engaged. The pacing is brisk. The movie starts losing its impact when it veers into more serious terrain. John and Jane face financial pressures; their marriage starts to feel the strain. The prospect of losing their child ultimately gets Jane and John to bond back stronger. This last act of the film takes on a heavy melodramatic tone. Cromwell stages and films these scenes with more dark and moody lighting evocative of a serious drama. There is a scene in the hospital where Jane is talking with Harriet, in which the characters are visible only in silhouette against a backdrop of a raging snowstorm seen through the window. It’s eye-catching and confident filmmaking, but the narrative elements in this stretch are too heavy-handed. The portion with the Mercy Plane flying through a blizzard, and a parachuting pilot who risks his life seems ill-suited for this movie. But even here, Lombard’s performance keeps us invested in the proceedings. We want Jane to end up happy. Predictably, the movie ends on a felicitous note that one would expect from any self-respecting romantic comedy. We wouldn’t want it any other way. 

Made for Each Other is available for viewing on YouTube at