Sweethearts: Brief Synopsis

Famous Broadway husband-and-wife team contemplate moving to Hollywood, against the wishes of their Broadway producer and friends.

Sweethearts: Full Synopsis

Sweethearts, that fantastic Broadway musical, is celebrating its sixth anniversary at the Melodie Theater, and the tickets are sold out. Composer Oscar Engel and lyricist Leo Kronk have arrived to share in the glory, to the exasperation of producer Felix Lehman and his staff. Stars Gwen Marlowe and Ernest Lane have a reason of their own for excitement on this gala evening: it is their sixth wedding anniversery!

Backstage during a costume change, Gwen and Ernest sit in their dressing room, preparing for the last scene. Their faithful secretary, Kay Jordan, fields phone calls from Gwen and Ernest's well-meaning family and declines the scores of invitations inviting them to dinner parties that evening. Gwen and Ernest have plans of their own: a quiet evening alone at their private table at Angelo's.

As Gwen slips into her costume, a note slips under the door. It's from Ernest. Every performance, not forgetting matinees on Wednesdays and Fridays, he sends a sweet little love note to her via this method. Tonight it reads, "Six years with you are like six minutes. Six minutes without you are like six years." This is lovingly deposited in a wall safe, along with hundreds of others.

The last scene is spectacular, and the crowd asks Gwen and Ernest to make a speech. After a failed attempt, they decide that the audience should sing along with them in a special encore of Sweethearts and Auld Lang Syne. As the curtain closes, Gwen and Ernest rush to change into their wedding clothes, a grey suit for him and a blue suit for her. Felix Lehman has other plans for his two "kiddies", however, so he stops them as they are walking out the door. He wants them to come to his little party, just one small table at the Marengo. After a well-acted guilt trip by Felix, the two stars agree to forego their own plans.

Arriving at the Marengo in fancy evening dress, Gwen and Ernest are dismayed that it is not one table but all tables. Newspaper photographers, a national radio broadcast, and Gwen and Ernest have been asked to sing the hits from Sweethearts.

Waiting outside to take Gwen and Ernest home is a visitor from Hollywood, Norman Trumpett, sent from the Benjamin Silver Studios to sign Marlowe and Lane to a long-term contract. This frightens Lehman, since he has no contract, other than friendship, with the couple. Despite Lehman's best efforts, Trumpett takes Gwen and Ernest home in his private car, offering them a Hollywood contract. After the evening's disappointment, it is no hard thing to convince the couple that life in Hollywood would be like a tropical vacation, compared to Broadway life. Gwen and Ernest arrive home full of ideas of gardening and "putting on overalls to chop down their own fruit trees" on a California ranch of their own.

Panic erupts in Lehman's office the next day when the news breaks that Marlowe and Lane are leaving Broadway. Lehman tries to persuade his "kiddies" to stay, but to no avail. They shop for "Hollywood" wardrobes (an excuse for a fabulous 1938 fashion show); Ernest records On Parade, races to the radio station in time for the last Sweethearts show, and arrives in time to run onto the stage as he sings his first note.

The next morning finds them in the same state of chaos. Gwen and Ernest are trying to pack for their trip to Hollywood the next day, finish last minute business, appear in the final performance of Sweethearts that evening, and sign their Hollywood contracts between scenes. They sort things out, while singing Little Grey Home in the West, then Ernest parts to run errands with Kay while Gwen finishes the packing.

Meanwhile, Leo Kronk, the Sweethearts playwright, has come up with a plan to keep Marlowe and Lane in New York. He calls on Gwen while she is alone to read his newest play to her. She would be the perfect actress, he says. Another Garbo! After all, the play features everything from the lightest of comedy to the deepest of tragedy, based on a "universal truth".

The play is about rich couple living happily in Long Island, but the wife finds out that her husband is really in love with someone else. It turns out that he has been secretly sending the other woman love notes every day, one of them being, "Six years with you are like six minutes. Six minutes without you are like six years". He reads several other notes, all of which are from Gwen's stash of letters from Ernest (stolen by Kronk). Gwen asks Leo if he made the sayings up, but he tells her that they were given to him by a lady, whose name he could not disclose, who was secretly in love with a married man. He said that that was most often the way in these cases, the wife being the last person to know. Gwen, angry and upset, thinking that the man to whom Leo is referring is Ernest, asks to be alone. She looks through Ernest's dresser and convinces herself that he is secretly in love with Kay.

Meanwhile, Ernest and Kay return. Ernest runs upstairs to tell the happy news to Gwen: Kay is going with them to Hollywood! Positive that this is a sign of his love for the secretary, Gwen walks out of the room in disgust, leaving Ernest alone, disappointed and mystified. Kay disregards Gwen's snubs, putting it down to nervousness over the move.

Thinking to catch Ernest in action, Gwen goes into Kay's bedroom to look for clues to the secret romance. Suddenly, a note is slipped under the door. It is from Ernest, and it says, "Whenever you look in the mirror, you are looking at my favorite person." Horrified, Gwen leaves for the theater, to lock herself in her dressing room.

Ernest, not realizing that Gwen has gone, comes into Kay's room to ask if she has received the note. Yes, she says, she will have the jewelers engrave it on the vanity case that afternoon. It is to be Ernest's surprise for Gwen, in honor of their new life together in Hollywood.

That evening at the Melodie Theater, chaos ensues. Gwen refuses to speak to Ernest and has locked her dressing-room door. Ernest is bewildered and upset at his wife's mysterious and sudden change. Felix Lehman is struggling with a guilty conscience, and Leo Kronk and Oscar Engel could not be happier. In fact, they have become such great friends that they plan to produce Leo's great play themselves.

Meanwhile, Norman Trumpett arrives with four lawyers and the Hollywood contracts for Marlowe and Lane. Ernest sends Gwen a note, "What is the matter with my favorite person?". Gwen scrawls back, "Not interested in your cicular letters!" and shoves the note right back under the door. Thinking that Trumpett is Ernest, when the lawyers arrive with the contracts, Gwen rudely opens the door. Taking the opportunity to sneak in, Ernest confronts her with the rejected note and asks for an explanation. Gwen refuses to talk to him and announces to all that she is not going to Hollywood. Trumpett and the lawyers leave in bewilderment, as Marlowe and Lane argue together. For the first time in their careers, the two stars are late for their cue.

Felix Lehman gets his wish: Marlowe and Lane do not go to Hollywood. Instead, they split up, to take Sweethearts on the road. Gwen covered one part of the country, singing with Ernest's understudy; and Ernest took the other part of the country, singing with Gwen's understudy. Sitting alone in small hotels in remote towns, Gwen and Ernest miss each other.

Gwen's mother, who is traveling with her, sits down to read Variety and find out where Ernest is, when she notices a review about Leo's new play, or rather "flop". Closing on its opening night, it is hailed as one of the worst dramas ever written. It was based on the "universal" truth that any woman in love could be persuaded that her husband was in love with someone else. Realizing that Leo had tricked her into thinking Ernest unfaithful, Gwen rushes to the phone. At the same time, Ernest reads the review and realizes what Gwen thought of him, so he rushes to the phone. They apologize to each other for their misunderstandings and meet again in New York.

On the warpath, Gwen and Ernest march into Lehman's office. Furious at the trick to split them up, they flash airplane tickets in front of Felix, telling them that they are not only leaving New York for good but are flying out, a faster mode of transportation than their first idea of a train.

It is not to be, however. Felix acts out another beautiful guilt trip, and the stars fall for it again (as always). Kay arrives, and everyone is happy. Sweethearts reopens, and Marlowe and Lane are greeted by a happy chorus singing "Welcome Back" to the tune of Sweethearts.