Wednesday, April 11, 2012

They Went That-a-Way!

You Go Your Way was Kay’s sixth novel to be published, but it was not  the one that had stalled at page 220, the one that led Kay to write This is on Me. (That novel would have to wait yet another year before finally finding its way into hard covers.) Kirkus Reviews called You Go Your Way Airy amorantics by a crack hand, and Beatrice Sherman, writing in The New York Times found the novel light and amusing, short on ballast, but long on smartly frivolous conversation, and generously diverting.

Young and vivacious (and stunningly beautiful—that goes without saying) Connie Crowell, though madly in love with husband Bill, decides (before their honeymoon is even over) that she married Bill too hastily. Connie’s unorthodox philosophy (I wish bigamy wasn't illegal) is that she should have been married once or twice before—unhappily—so that she and Bill would be assured of unending marital bliss. And so, what follows is a completely preposterous string of separations, rivalries, and courtships, through which Connie bounces merrily while Bill fumes and tries to keep up. You know exactly how it will all turn out in the end, but the ride is a lot of fun. I won’t give anything away, but you can probably figure out the ending from my simple synopsis without much effort.

“Then Bill fell in love with a purple china
dachshund with cacti planted in its open back.”
The rivals prepare to go wooing--simultaneously.
Though the plot is light as air, Connie’s amorantics and the book’s dialogue are genuinely funny. You Go Your Way is Kay’s only truly comedic novel, and the only one that actually makes me laugh out loud; it has all the elements of classic Hollywood screwball comedy. Doesn't that look like Cary Grant holding the red roses?   

In fact, The New York Times announced in late 1940 that Paramount had bought the screen rights to You Go Your Way as a probable vehicle for Claudette Colbert. That’s funny, because a few days ago The Palm Beach Story (which starred Claudette Colbert, of course) was on the television, and I was struck by how alike Preston Sturges’s picture and Kay’s novel are. Both date from the same time, and the main characters are young, glamorous New Yorkers. Both start off with the wife deciding the couple shouldn't be married any longer.

Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert in
Preston Sturges's
The Palm Beach Story
Both marriages are “threatened” by the presence of romantic rivals on each side. And in each the wife goesby trainto Palm Beach for a divorce (Florida divorces are quicker than Reno divorces, according to Connie Crowell.) The plot of The Palm Beach Story is, not surprisingly when one considers Sturges's oeuvre, even more ridiculous than Kay's story.

But I think Palm Beach gives a little hint of what the movie version of Your Way might have looked like. It’s a pity the picture didn’t get made, and we’ll most certainly never know why.

One odd coincidence: Connie and Bill (in You Go Your Way) don yachting caps and go “yachting” on a chartered tug called the Ella F. McGlew. In The Palm Beach Story Gerry Jeffers (Colbert) introduces husband Tom (Joel McCrea) as her brother, Captain McGlew! Mere coincidence? Or was Preston Sturges perhaps familiar with Kay’s book?

You Go Your Way was originally  serialized in The American, starting with the April, 1941 issue. Illustration by Alfred Parker

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