Monday, April 26, 2010

Princess Olivia

This week, we watched Princess O'Rourke, a 1943 film with Ms. De Havilland as the Princess Maria, a refugee from Europe living quietly - much too quietly - in the United States.   When she passes out (the result of too many sleeping pills) after her flight to San Francisco is grounded, she ends up hte in home of the pilot, Eddie O'Rourke (played by Robert Cummings).  Maria quickly becomes enchanted by Eddie, his neighbors Dave (Jack Carson) and Jean (Jane Wyman). Eddie and Dave are about to be inducted into the army, so there is a certain urgency as Eddie discovers he is in love with Mary (the name Maria has adopted).  When he proposes, she is forced to reveal to him her royal status, and he begins to discover the role he will be assuming as the husband of a princess.

A couple of weeks ago, we complained a bit about Jack Carson, but he is perfect in this movie.  The scene where he describes his wife's grief at his imminent departure to the armed forces is truly heartbreaking. Equally affecting are his scenes with Jane Wyman.  Their loving banter is true and ultimately moving as we see them trying to cope with an impossible situation.  Another surprising performance is that of Robert Cummings.  Again, we are not really fans, but he is wonderful in this.  As the rules of being a consort are explained to him, his reactions are perfect.  We stay on his side BECAUSE of the way Cummings subtly demonstrates the frustration of Eddie. As always, Olivia is a treat.  Warm, sweet,  and funny.  Her Maria is a joy, and you will adore her.

On of the images that recurs in the film is that of the caged bird; Maria is very much that bird, which is finally released after she falls in love with Eddie.  My friend remembered that the caged bird was also the symbol of France under the aegis of Nazi occupation.  She also recalled an emblem (done by Cartier)of the freed bird, symbolizing the French liberation. Though the war is still underway during the filming and release of the film, we wondered if that image of the caged France influences the screenwriters as well.

Finally, we loved the script.  So often, writers go for the cheap release. But these do not.  Eddie ONLY rejects his role as consort when he discovers that he will have to renounce his U.S. citizenship.  Every other "indignity" (being subservient to his wife in public, not being allowed to serve in the armed services) he is willing to agree on.  But even today, we found the insistence that he lose his very identity as an American to be just that one step too far. 

If you've never seen this movie, run right out and see it.  In fact, set up a reminder on TCM.com - it is being run in August.  This one is a treat!  Here's a scene where the Princess is on a plane:




Next time - join us for another visit with the dashing Mr. Flynn, as he rejoins our Olivia for Four's a Crowd.

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