John Loves Mary

John Loves Mary is a 1949 comedy film directed by David Butler and written by Henry Ephron and Phoebe Ephron. The film stars Ronald Reagan, Patricia Neal and Jack Carson.[4] The film was released by Warner Bros. on February 19, 1949. It's based on a Broadway play of the same name written by Norman Krasna, which ran from February 4, 1947, to February 7, 1948 at the Booth Theatre and Music Box Theatre in New York City.[5]

John Loves Mary
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Butler
Produced byJerry Wald
Screenplay byHenry Ephron
Phoebe Ephron
Based onJohn Loves Mary '47 play
by Norman Krasna
StarringRonald Reagan
Jack Carson
Wayne Morris
Patricia Neal
Music byDavid Buttolph
CinematographyJ. Peverell Marley
Edited byIrene Morra
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
February 4, 1949(New York)[1]
February 19, 1949 (USA)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.346 million[2]
Box office$1.5 million[3]


John Lawrence (Ronald Reagan) is a returning GI. Mary McKinley (Patricia Neal, in her film debut) is the girl he left behind. But their reunion will have to wait: John has returned with cockney war bride Lilly Herbish (Virginia Field) in tow. It seems that John married Lilly as a favor to get her into the U.S., intending to go to Reno, Nevada and divorce her so that she can wed her true love, John's old pal Fred Taylor (Jack Carson). The plan is complicated by the unexpected arrival of Mary's parents, Senator James McKinley (Edward Arnold) and his wife Phyllis (Katharine Alexander). When John asks for the blessing of Mary's father to wed her, the senator insists that the wedding be held immediately. Later, John learns that Fred is already married and that his wife is expecting a baby.

John and Fred then come up with a scheme to put off John's wedding until he can get a divorce from Lilly. Fred pays off their former lieutenant, Victor O'Leary (Wayne Morris), to don his old uniform and pretend to order John to go to Reno on some Army business. The next day, Mary is so distraught at the thought of delaying the wedding that she insists her father use his political connections to get John out of his assignment. When John refuses to accept any special treatment, Mary leaves along with her parents. While they are gone, Lilly arrives and discovers that Fred already is married. Mary tries again to get John out of his assignment by asking General Biddle (Paul Harvey) to intervene, but John again refuses any such help. Mary becomes convinced that John does not love her and breaks off the engagement, forcing John to come clean and admit to the entire scheme. Lilly then reveals that she was married to Victor, but had received a letter purporting to be from his mother claiming that he had died from double pneumonia. An unwilling, and inebriated Victor is reunited with Lilly, and since Lilly's marriage to John is invalid he is free to wed Mary.[6]


Original Play

The play was directed by Josh Logan who called it "very light but terribly funny".[7] He was introduced to it by Leland Hayward who was unable to produce it himself. Logan invested the play in partnership with Rogers and Hammerstein, who he invited in to thank them for Annie Get Your Gun. The play received good reviews - Logan said "Krasna had written and constructed a brilliant piece of machinery; I had simply staged it. Because of my admiration for him, a guilt set in that kept in from enjoying my success. I began to drink a bit."[8]


Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote a negative review of the film, finding that it "does not have the natural spontaneity nor the artificial smoothness of the play. Something has been subtracted in the transmission to the screen, and this time 'John Loves Mary' carries neither conviction nor charm."[9] Variety, however, called it "a punchy laugh-getter ... Pacing of David Butler's direction is very sharp, whipping the laughs together in rapid-fire order as the visual and verbal gags are brought on. It's good fun, even at its silliest, with a minimum of sagging moments."[10] Harrison's Reports declared, "A highly amusing romantic comedy-farce ... The story itself is thin and improbable, but these weaknesses are more than overcome by the many comical farcical situations that will keep audiences laughing throughout."[11] The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote: "This film is good largely because of its witty and humorous dialogue. The portrayals are good, and Ronald Reagan and Jack Carson are amusing."[12] John McCarten of The New Yorker called it "a thin war comedy on the stage and it's even thinner as a movie."[13]


  1. "John Loves Mary - Details". AFI Film Catalog. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  2. Shearer, Stephen (2006). Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life. University of Kentucky Press. p. 81. ISBN 9780813171364.
  3. "Top Grossers of 1949". Variety. 4 January 1950. p. 59.
  4. Hal Erickson. "John Loves Mary (1949) - David Butler | Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related". AllMovie. Retrieved 2015-05-08.
  5. The Broadway League. "John Loves Mary | IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information". IBDB. Retrieved 2015-05-08.
  6. "John Loves Mary - Synopsis". AFI Film Catalog. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  7. Logan p 234
  8. Logan p 235
  9. Crowther, Bosley (February 5, 1949). "The Screen In Review". The New York Times: 11.
  10. "John Loves Mary". Variety: 11. January 26, 1949.
  11. "'John Loves Mary' with Ronald Reagan, Jack Carson and Patricia Neal". Harrison's Reports: 18. January 29, 1949.
  12. "John Loves Mary". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 16 (184): 64. April 1949.
  13. McCarten, John (February 12, 1949). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 70.


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