Week-End Marriage is a “cautionary tale” tale about women attempting to manage both a job and a home life. Based on the 1931 novel by Faith Baldwin, the film pushes all the buttons on the dangers a woman faces by attempting to balance life in and out of the home; an unhappy marriage, an unkempt home, no children and infidelity by the husband. Today, with so many double income families trying to survive, the film seems chauvinistic, narrow-minded and quaint.
Lola Davis (Loretta Young) marries Ken Hayes (Norman Foster) who gives up a important job position in South America to marry her. He wants Lola to be a stay at home wife, but Lola wants to work. She’s good at what she does and continually gets increases in her salary. Ken, on the other hand, is going nowhere and eventually loses his job. He doesn’t like his wife making more money than him and likes it even less now that he is unemployed. Lola’s brother Jim (Roscoe Karns) is married to Agnes, a scene stealing Aline MacMahon, who is the epiphany of the modern working woman. She is the breadwinner in their family as Jim seems to be stuck in a low paying job and spends the entire film complaining about his wife working. Though the women are making the money, the men seem to do nothing but complain about the wives. Socks are not darned, dinner is not prepared and the dishes remain unwashed. The poor hubby’s.
Ken, can’t seem to get another job. Then again, he really doesn’t seem to be trying too hard. Meanwhile, Lola continues to do well at her job. Ken meanwhile sinks in alcoholism and even picks up a blonde floozy named Connie (Sheila Terry). Lola finds out about it when she bails both of them out of jail one night after they get caught in a raid.
At work, Lola is offered a big promotion to an executive position, but she will have to move to St. Louis. Ken doesn’t want to follow his wife to another city even though he still doesn’t have a job. If Lola does not accept the relocation, she will be out of a job (another modern touch). It’s an opportunity she cannot afford to pass on.
Lola goes with the job and Ken stays behind hooking up again with Connie. In St. Louis, Lola gets a call that Ken is gravely ill and she heads back to New York. After arriving back in New York, Lola is surprised to discover Ken has been living with Connie who has been taking care of him. When Lola shows up, the doctor (Grant Mitchell), taking care of Ken, refuses to let Lola see her husband. What he does do is go on to reprimand Lola about her poor choices in life. It’s one of the most vile and nasty speeches of why women should not work and should stay at home, subservient to their husbands, house cleaning, cooking and caring for their husbands. If not, the doctor goes on, it would basically lead to the end of civilization! It’s an unbelievable diatribe that leaves you dumbfounded.
Finally, after hours with Ken on the brink of death, now stable, the doctor allows Lola to see her husband. Ken is happy to see her as she promises never to leave him again. She will stay by his side as his slave-like housewife, despite the fact, both of them are now out of a job. The speech by Grant Mitchell, as the doctor, has to be one of the most chauvinistic tirades ever put on screen. It’s a degrading attack that makes one question what the filmmakers really think.
The high point of the film is Aline MacMahon’s tart, snappy performance, that is, until the filmmakers make her cave into forced housewife hell. This was only her fourth film. By the way, just to make sure no one misinterprets my “housewife hell” comment. There is nothing wrong with being a housewife as long as that is a choice and not a demand forced on women by society’s standard.
For approximately fifty-five of its short sixty five minute running time this film reflects a progressive, modern day view of women in the work place and in marriage. Then, in a sudden twist, in its closing minutes, it takes a complete 180 degree turn digressing into women are best staying at home, cooking, darning socks and taking care of their man…even if he’s doesn’t have a job.