“The Impatient Years,” a 1944 melodramatic romance with elements screwball comedy (directed by Irving Cummings) reunited the raspy-voiced Jean Arthur with old-rascally Charles Coburn from “The More the Merrier” (for which Coburn received an Oscar and Arthur her only Oscar nomination). Joel McCrea, who had been Arthur’s love interest in “The More the Merrier,” was offered the role of the Army Air Force sergeant who wed Arthur the day before being deployed, having met her three days earlier. Lee Bowman (Cover Girl) took the part – and IMO was better cast than McCrea would have been.
On leave in Sonora (in California’s Central Valley), 18 months later, he meets his son, his father-in-law, and the boarder (Phil Brown) who has been de facto father and disrupts the established schedule of the wife he barely knows (and who barely knows him). They decide to divorce.
In court, Coburn tells the judge (Edgar Buchanan) that many men are going to come back changed to wives who have been on their own, often raising children on their own. Coburn suggests that the judge order the couple to return to the scenes (in San Francisco) of their whirlwind romance to try to see how they got together. If that fails, then grant them the divorce, he suggests. Reliving their courtship also brings them back to the minister (Harry Davenport) and his wife (Jane Darwell) who tell the couple how impressed they had been by the rightness of the match when they tied the knot that is in danger of unraveling. (Anyone familiar with the Hollywood Production Code knows that it would ensure reconciliation.)
Anyone who has seen 1940s (or 30s) comedies about antagonistic male-female relationships (and particularly married ones) knows what the outcome will be. There is a certain amount of screwball comedy along the way, particularly in the adjacent but not connecting hotel rooms guarded by Charles Grapevine. The main interests are historical – first in anticipating postwar marital problems (and attempting to show that they were superficial and could be worked out) and in movie history as being Arthur’s last movie at Columbia (she only appeared in two more movies, though both were classics: Billy Wilder’s “A Foreign Affair” and George Stevens’s “Shane”).
The IMDB users’ rating of 6.6 out of 10 seems just to me.
On DVD, “The Impatient Years” is available with three 1930s comedies starring Jean Arthur in the “Jean Arthur Comedy Collection” with “The Public Menace” (1935), “Adventure In Manhattan” (1936), and “More Than A Secretary” (1936). TCM also has published a four-disc “Jean Arthur Drama Collection,” btw. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is included in the six-disc “The Frank Capra Collection.” “Only Angels Have Wings,” “The Cowboy and the Lady,” “A Foreign Affair,” and “Shane” are each available singly.