Based on Memory of Love, a novel by Bessie Breuer, In Name Only is soap opera par excellence, blessed with a peerless cast. Carole Lombard plays widow Julie Eden, who meets and falls in love with unhappily married Alec Walker (Cary Grant). Having married Alec solely for his wealth and family prestige, his manipulative wife, Maida (Kay Francis), has managed to convince everyone -- even Alec's parents -- that she is the victimized one and that Alec is an irresponsible philanderer. Making matters worse, Maida refuses to give Alec a divorce so that he can find happiness in the arms of the sweet, unassuming Julie. Almost miraculously, Maida agrees to let Alec go, only to capriciously renege at the last minute and sue Julie for alienation of affections. Disconsolately, Alec goes on a bender, falling asleep in front of an open window and contracting pneumonia. As Alec lays seriously ill in a hospital bed, Julie tearfully agrees to give him up if only Maida will try to make him happy. But Maida isn't about to give up this moment of triumph, cheerfully bragging about her underhanded methods and her intention to take Alec for every penny that he has. Without giving away the outcome, it can be noted that, figuratively speaking, loose lips sink ships. Though In Name Only could have been a wallow in bathos, the performances by the stars -- and the knowing direction of John Cromwell -- elevate the production to the level of "romance classic."
by Hal Erickson synopsis