Penny Serenade (1941) - Rotten Tomatoes

Penny Serenade1941

Penny Serenade (1941)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Penny Serenade Photos

Movie Info

While listening to a recording of "Penny Serenade," Julie Gardiner Adams (Irene Dunne) begins reflecting on her past. She recalls her near-impulsive marriage to newspaper reporter Roger Adams (Cary Grant), which begins on a deliriously happy note but turns out to be fraught with tragedy. While honeymooning in Japan, Julie and Roger are trapped in the 1923 earthquake, which results in her miscarriage and subsequent incapability to bear children. Upon their return to America, Roger becomes editor of a small-town newspaper, just scraping by financially. Despite their depleted resources, Julie and Roger want desperately to adopt a child. It seems hopeless until kindly adoption agency head Miss Oliver (Beulah Bondi) helps smooth their path. Alas, their happiness is once more short-lived: their new daughter, Trina (Eva Lee Kuney), succumbs to a sudden illness at the age of six. Reduced to hopelessness, Julie and Roger decide to dissolve their marriage, but Miss Oliver once more comes to the rescue. Sentimental in the extreme, Penny Serenade is also enormously effective, balancing moments of heartbreaking pathos with uproarious laughter. Only director George Stevens could have handled a scene with a copiously weeping Cary Grant without inducing discomfort or embarrassment in the audience. Since lapsing into the public domain in 1968 (though released by Columbia, the film was owned by Stevens' production firm), Penny Serenade has become almost as ubiquitous a cable-TV presence as It's a Wonderful Life.

Watch it now


Cary Grant
as Roger Adams
Irene Dunne
as Julie Gardiner Adams
Edgar Buchanan
as Applejack Carney
Ann Doran
as Dotty "Dot"
Beulah Bondi
as Miss Oliver
Eva Lee Kuney
as Trina age 6
Leonard Willey
as Dr. Hartley
Baby Biffle
as Trina age 1
Edmund Elton
as Minister
Billy Bevan
as McDougal
Nee Wong Jr.
as Sung Chong
Adrian Morris
as Bill Collector
Beryl Vaughn
as Flower Girl
John Tyrrell
as Press Operator
Iris Han
as Ohanna-San
Otto Han
as Sam the Cook
Ben Taggart
as Policeman
Frank Moran
as Cab Driver
Lynton Brent
as Reporter
Al Seymour
as Bootlegger
Edward Peil Sr.
as Train Conductor
Eddie Laughton
as Cab Driver
Doris Herbert
as Minister's Wife
Lani Lee
as Chinese Waitress
Rollin Moriyama
as Rickshaw Boy
Ben Kumagai
as Rickshaw Boy
Henry Dixon
as Old Printer
View All

Critic Reviews for Penny Serenade

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (4)

George Stevens' direction and the excellence of the stars' playing make the film.

November 13, 2007 | Full Review…

This is a classic 'women's picture' in every sense.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

If you are prone to easy weeping, you might even take along a washtub.

March 25, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

If you have any tolerance for soap opera, this is one of the classics.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Its objectives are excellently realized, and it stands as a visual refutation of the industry's axiom that movies must move.

October 30, 2019 | Full Review…

The film has in its plot a note of originality and touches the of paternal feeling with delicacy. [Full review in Spanish]

September 17, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Penny Serenade

Love, marriage, and parenthood, all the bittersweet magnificence of life is on display in "Penny Serenade", a sentimental little film from 1941. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne star as the lovers who, as the movie opens, seem doomed to separate. As she's packing to leave her husband, she finds a box of old records and begins to listen to them. Each record is tied to a specific place and time in her mind, unlocking memories that show a relationship unfold as the movie progresses. The song she was playing at the record store where she worked when they first met or the song that reminded her of the time they spent living in Japan, each is a poignant little chapter in the lives of these two people. But why is she leaving her husband? The answer reveals itself slowly and tragically. It's said that the human body is simply a vehicle for genes needing to replicate (Agent Scully, X-Files, season 4, episode 2), so the suggestion is that a body unable to reproduce might lose its purpose. If I can find any fault in "Penny Serenade", it's that the ending is wrapped up a little too neatly and perhaps a little too callously. There are some things in life you can't just kiss and make better. There are some losses that can't be cooled with an ice cream cone on the ride home. Dunne and Grant both deliver career-highlight performances (Grant was in fact, nominated for an Oscar), and maybe the ending was an audience appeasement. After all, when we've invested so much emotion into the characters, it would be cruel not to give some light at the end of the tunnel.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

This is a very sentimental, sappy, but realistic drama of a young couple. It's good, but I'm not a big fan of the film, although I loved Grant in it.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer


Such a sad-y! My biggest problem with this film was the time passage in records. Cutting back to Irene Dunne and all she did was change records, circle into "a few years" later deal and it got old. There are better ways to tell passage of time. That aside, Cary Grant's cracking voice in the courtroom teared me up. The man is such an acting god.

Jennifer D
Jennifer D

Super Reviewer

Penny Serenade Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features