Friday, December 29, 2017

Mae Crosses the Bridge

England is under siege from the Germans in World War I. As civilians scramble for cover during a raid on Waterloo Bridge (1931), prostitute Myra Deaville (Mae Clarke) assists, and then attempts to seduce a young soldier, Roy Cronin (Kent Douglass). Roy, an innocent if ever their was one, is immediately attracted to Myra, not comprehending what she does to pay her rent. He pursues her and brings her to his parents' home. Myra, however, resists - she loves him deeply, but knows her past will be a barrier to their happiness.

Before we started this blog, we viewed this version of Waterloo Bridge with a group of other Pre-code films. We decided to revisit it, but will be pairing it (next week) with the 1940 remake starring Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor. Given the conclusion of this film, it's almost hard to believe that it is a pre-code film, as there is a sense of cosmic punishment being visited on Myra for her actions. Since Myra is a good person who has made some really poor decisions in her life, the ending is quite shocking and unexpected.
Based on a play by Robert Sherwood (which was based on an encounter in his own life in London during the WWI. See this TCM article  for more on the story) that ran for 64 performances on Broadway, Waterloo Bridge has been on the screen three times - this film, the Vivien Leigh version we'll discuss next time, and Gaby (1956), starring Leslie Caron. It was also done as a radio play in 1941 with Brian Aherne and Joan Fontaine, in 1946, with Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck in the lead roles; and in 1951 with Norma Shearer as Myra. 

Mae Clarke is quite good at Myra. Ms. Clarke does not try to whitewash the character a bit. When we first see Myra, she is quitting her job in the chorus of a West End play to take up with a wealthy man. He's given her a fur wrap, and she expects more gifts from him, as well as support in the style to which she would like to become accustomed. But, in the next scene, we see that play that she left is still running, but Myra's affair is not. Unable to get a job in another show, she has turned to the streets to support herself. Ms. Clarke plays Myra as selfish and ignorant. She doesn't like working the streets, but primarily because she wanted wealth and leisure for herself and doesn't have either. The morals - or lack thereof - of working as a prostitute does not bother her until she falls in love with Roy. And Ms. Clarke makes that transformation realistic and understandable; we watch the Myra lose her gold-digging instincts to become the person that Roy envisions her to be. Ms. Clarke was not the first choice for Myra - Rose Hobart was originally considered (AFI Catalog); to our thinking, the right casting choice was made.
That we believe Ms. Clarke's love for Roy is a credit to her ability as an actress. Kent Douglass, however, is not a great actor, and we have to believe that Roy is so obtuse he can't see what Myra does for a living. Mr. Douglass would later change his name to Douglass Montgomery, the name he'd used on the New York stage (MGM didn't want him using Montgomery to avoid confusion with Robert). With 32 credits to his career, he did not have a wide range of roles, though he is remembered today as Laurie Little Women (1933). In 1934, he was the victim of an attempt on his life, when someone sabotaged his car; no suspects were ever found. Following service in the Canadian infantry during World War II, Mr. Montgomery relocated to the UK. He returned to the US in the 1950s, to do some television. In 1966, at the age of 58, he died of spinal cancer (he was living in Connecticut at the time). He was survived by his wife of 14 years, British actress Kay Young.
Bette Davis has a small part (this was her third film appearance) as the generous Janet Cronin, Roy's sister. The whole Wetherby/Cronin family are shown as loving, caring people - not only towards Myra and Roy, but for each other. Though we are informed early on that Mrs. Wetherby (Enid Bennett) remarried and moved with her children to the UK to be with her husband, Major Wetherby (Frederick Kerr), there is no wicked stepfather here. The affection between the Cronin children and their loving - and rather dotty - stepfather is apparent immediately. It makes a nice touch, and helps to explain Roy's rather innocent attitudes.

At one point in the film, allusion is made to the practice of women marrying several times to collect the salaries (and hopefully death benefits) of their soldier husbands. We found it interesting that the practice would be discussed regarding both wars, as we saw in Allotment Wives.

The New York Times review was complimentary of both Mr. Douglass and Ms. Clarke, and enjoyed the story. Danny at did not; however we agreed wholeheartedly on Ms. Clarke's inspired performance. As promised, next week we will look at the Vivien Leigh version of the film, which you'll find has a lot more exposition. We'll leave you with this scene from the start of the film, and hope you will join us again next time.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Barbara's Christmas

Assistant District Attorney John "Jack" Sargent (Fred MacMurray) knows how to get convictions. He knows that putting an attractive woman on trial for shoplifting a few days before Christmas is going to result in a not guilty verdict. When presented with such a case just before the holidays, he maneuvers to postpone the trial until the new year. Jack is about to take a long-promised vacation to visit his mother and aunt on their farm in Indiana. Thus, he feels sorry for defendant Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck), as his actions will force her to be incarcerated over Christmas and he bails her out of jail. When Jack discovers that she is from a town near his home own, he offers to bring Lee to visit her mother.  Remember the Night (1940) is the story of their journey.

I discussed Remember the Night four years ago after seeing it in a theatre, so I was pleased when our Movie Group decided to view it for the holidays. This is a lovely film, blending comedy and drama expertly. With a script by Preston Sturges, and direction by Mitchell Leisen, the movie glides along at a brisk, but engaging pace. This was Mr. Sturges last film in which he only provided the script (thereafter, he would direct his own screenplays), and Mr. Leisen cut the script, much to Mr. Sturges' dismay. (AFI catalog) That being said, it is hard to believe that a longer film would have been half as affective, or that Mr. Sturges' original concept of Jack would have been any better than the one we have today.

In the first of his four films with Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray is sympathetic and engaging as a serious lawyer with a big heart. According to this TCM article, Mr. Sturges originally conceived Jack as "almost heroic". Mr. Leisen, however, felt the focus of the film should be shifted slightly away from Jack, and from the "certain articulate quality" that he felt would not compliment Mr. MacMurray's abilities. Mr. Leisen's vision of "gentle strength" is what remains in the film, and Mr. MacMurray is perfect as a man whose emotions and goodness conflict with this part of his job.
Barbara Stanwyck sparkles a Lee, a woman who has been diminished by her mother and her upbringing (more on that later). She escaped to New York City, and ended up a shoplifter, stealing high-end jewelry to support herself. We know that she has tried to work - she mentions a job as a song plugger (like Jack, she can play the piano, but she is a far better pianist than him). But with no real job skills, and no self-esteem, Lee has become a self-fulfilling prophesy. It would be easy to make Lee either rock-hard or pitiable. Stanwyck does neither; her Lee is genuine. She doesn't like what she has become, but she knows nothing else. When she learns there is another way of life, she embraces it.

The film does a beautiful job in comparing and contrasting the upbringing of Jack and Lee, primarily through the characterizations of their mothers. On the one hand, we have Lee's Mother, expertly played by Georgia Caine as a cruel and unaffectionate woman who has no desire to be a mother to her child. On the other, we have Beulah Bondi as Mrs. Sargent - warm, loving, and understanding of her son, and of Lee. The children, both raised in small towns in Indiana by widowed mothers, both relatively poor, have turned out so drastically different because of their mothers' attitudes. But the film does not present a hopeless view - there is a road to redemption through love.
Georgia Caine has one scene in the film, but she is unforgettable.  Ms. Caine, the child of actors, began her career with a Shakespeare troup. By 1899, she was on Broadway - she had appeared in 28 plays and musicals by 1935, and was at one point called "the queen of Broadway musical comedy". She began her film career in 1930; by the time she retired, she had appeared in 86 films, many of them uncredited. Thanks to her appearance in Remember the Night, she became a part of Preston Sturges stock company, appearing in a total of 8 of his movies, including Hail, the Conquering Hero (1944), where she was the mother of Eddie Bracken. She was married twice - her second marriage to Alphonzo Bell Hudson lasted for 30 years. Ms. Caine died in 1964, at the age of 87. (For more on her life and career, check out Accustomed to her Face: Thirty-five Character Actresses of the Golden Age of Hollywood by Axel Nissen).
The film would reappear in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast in March, 1940 with Mr. MacMurray and Ms. Stanwyck reprising their roles.  In July, 1951 another radio broadcast from the Screen Director's Playhouse starred William Holden and Nancy Gates as the leads.  In May of 1955, television, in an episdode of Lux Video Theatre featured Don Defore and Jan Sterling. And finally, in 1969, Ms. Stanwyck's own The Big Valley had an episode - "Judgement in Heaven" (Season 1, Episode 15) with a plot remarkably like Remember the Night.

The New York Times review by Frank S. Nugent was glowing - he stated that, though it was "a bit too early in the season to be talking of the best pictures of 1940 [the picture was released in January] it is not too early to say that Paramount's nomination is worth considering." (It received no nominations, unfortunately).  Mr. Nugent praised not only our two stars, but also, Ms. Caine, Ms. Bondi, Elizabeth Patterson (as Jack's Aunt Emma) and Willard Robertson (as Lee's attorney, Francis X. O'Leary). He said "In a cast of such unusual competence the difficulty is not in finding players worthy of special mention but in being able to keep the list within a single paragraph." 

If that doesn't convince you, we'll leave you with the trailer from this exceptional motion picture. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Greer's Home for Children

After a whirlwind romance, Edna Kahly (Greer Garson) becomes engaged to Sam Gladney (Walter Pidgeon); Edna and her adopted sister Charlotte (Marsha Hunt) are planning a double wedding. But Charlotte's discovery that she is a foundling - and therefore illegitimate - changes everything. Her fiance's family rejects her, and while Alan (William Henry) reaffirms his love for her, Charlotte leaves the room and commits suicide. The horror of this will haunt Edna Gladney, as does the death of her only son.  Blossoms in the Dust (1941) is the story of the Edna Gladney's work in Texas to help foundlings such as her sister find loving and secure families.

Though we uniformly enjoyed this film, we have some issues with the script. First off, the opening implies that the film is going to be a romance, but the story takes a rapid about face within about 10 minutes.  And while we welcome stories with pep, at times Blossoms in the Dust moves almost too quickly. There are no real transitions as the action moves through the events of Edna's life. One minute we are in her Wisconsin home, seeing her reaction to a pistol shot, the next we are in Texas and it is Edna's first anniversary. We rather missed the depth that we felt some scenes really deserved. We place the blame on director Mervyn LeRoy; in the book, A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson by Michael Troyan, Marsha Hunt describes pleading for a few minutes of screen time prior to Charlotte's suicide: "Please shoot it my way, with the camera observing my emotions as I mount the stairs. It will make the episode clearer to the audience..." LeRoy refused, and shot only a brief view of Ms. Hunt's legs running up the stairs.  Too bad; Ms. Hunt is an actress who could have conveyed much in that momentary scene.
Likewise, the scenes following the death of Edna's son seem equally abrupt.  Partially, the quick transition demonstrates the futility of Edna's life to that point, but it does have an almost whiplash feel to it. Without Greer Garson's masterful handling of the role, Edna could have come across as trivial and unfeeling, but Ms. Garson is able to convey the depth of Edna's feelings in a short time. Even a brief nod of the head in a courtroom scene towards the end of the film tell us volumes about the character. Ms. Garson was not particularly enthusiastic about doing the film; she had reservations about working with so many scene stealing children (TCM article). Despite that, she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance (she lost to Joan Fontaine in Suspicion. It was another one of those tough years. Also nominated were Bette Davis in The Little Foxes; Olivia de Havilland in Hold Back the Dawn; and Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire!)
The screenplay, written by Anita Loos, is a highly fictionalized account of the life of Edna Gladney. Ms. Gladney had no foundling sister; in fact, Ms. Gladney was illegitimate (her mother later married Mr. Kahly, and Edna was given his name). Nor did she have a small son who died (See this Wikipedia article on Edna Gladney). However, Ms. Gladney worked long and hard for many years to find homes for orphaned and illegitimate children, and lobbied for legislation that would remove information from Texas documents that labeled children as illegitimate.  She would also (after this movie) work to get adopted children the same rights as natural children. Ms. Gladney attended a special preview of the film, as well as its opening in Fort Worth. She was complimentary about the film (especially enjoying the Walter Pidgeon's portrayal of her late husband), and stating that the film "would stimulate interest in children and child placement agencies".  The Edna Gladney Center for Adoption was named in her honor.
We would have liked to have seen more of Walter Pidgeon, here in his first of nine pictures with Ms. Garson (AFI catalog) - as a result, she was called the "daytime Mrs. Pidgeon" on the MGM lot. Mr. Pidgeon portrays a good, kind, and understanding man, who loves his wife with all his heart.  The affection that the two had for each other in real life is apparent in their on screen relationship. According to Ms. Garson's biography, Mr. Pidgeon lightened the grind of work with his humor - he would try to make her laugh in serious scenes, and would joke about her perfume (she was, it seems, a great lover of scents).  It's possible she got her revenge by teasing him about his dancing - they had to build a platform on roller skates so that the dancers could whirl about them, as Mr. Pidgeon kept forgetting the choreography!
The film itself opened at Radio City Music Hall to a positive review in the New York Times positive review. Along with Ms. Garson, the film would be nominated for a total of 3 Oscars. It was also nominated for best film, and won the Oscar for best Art Direction (Cedric Gibbons and Urie McCleary, set decoration by Edwin B. Willis). It was broadcast on the Lux Radio Theatre in February of 1942 with Ms. Garson, Mr. Pidgeon and Felix Bressart (Dr. Max Bressler) reprising their roles.  

Blossoms in the Dust is well worth your viewing - we'll leave you with the trailer to the film.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Robert is Eager

Johnny Eager (1941) (Robert Taylor), having served his time in prison, has been released on parole. He's working as a cabbie, and regularly visits his parole officer, Mr. Verne (Henry O'Neil), who firmly believes Johnny is on the straight and narrow. But Johnny has no intention of going straight, and uses his cousin Peg Fowler (Connie Gilchrist) and her daughter Matilda (Robin Raymond) as cover against discovery that's he's trying to open a dog track.  The venture is being held up, however, by D.A. John Benson Farrell (Edward Arnold). Johnny sees a way out when he meets Lisbeth Bard (Lana Turner), Farrell's much loved stepdaughter; her growing love for Johnny presents an opportunity to get the D.A. off Johnny's conniving back.

Johnny Eager is an engaging and entertaining film, primarily because of Robert Taylor's excellent portrayal.  He plays Johnny as a man on a journey to humanity.  At the beginning, Johnny is an actor, convincing one side that he is an upright citizen, and convincing the other that he is a heartless villain. The reality is somewhere in the middle, though Johnny himself considers he is the villain. Yet, early on, when he sends Garnet (Patricia Dane) away because he is not interested in her any longer, there is a kindness in his manner. Sure, he's setting her up for a fall, but he is genuinely trying to make it as painless as possible. He believes (and makes the audience believe) that he will return to Garnet once his fling with Lisabeth is over.  Taylor's genuineness makes him persuasive.
Van Heflin as Jeff Hartnett, Johnny's alcoholic best friend, won an Oscar for this portrayal. A decent actor, we still were not convinced that the performance was worthy of an Oscar. Still, in looking at the competition, which included William Bendix in Wake Island, Walter Huston in Yankee Doodle Dandy,  Frank Morgan in Tortilla Flat, and Henry Travers in Mrs. Miniver, we didn't strongly feel that there was a worthier performance among the nominees (though it was a mystery as to why Claude Rains wasn't nominated for Now, Voyager). Regardless, Mr. Heflin does a good job with a character who is hard to make engaging. Jeff is a weakling, and while his affection for Johnny is obvious, his willingness to tolerate Johnny's actions when he clearly believes them wrong, makes Jeff a character who is more despicable than the sociopathic Johnny. Mr. Heflin would later call this his favorite role (AFI catalog).
The film depends very much on the chemistry between Mr. Taylor and Ms. Turner (or TnT as they were called in the ad below). It certainly is there, but the idea of Ms. Turner's Lisabeth as a student social worker is a bit of a stretch.  According to this TCM article, the romance between the two stars was real (though Ms. Turner denied an actual affair). Mr. Taylor allegedly told his wife, Barbara Stanwyck that he was in love with Ms. Turner, but Ms. Turner broke up the relationship before an actual divorce took place.

We especially enjoyed a brief appearance by Glenda Farrell as Johnny's ex-girlfriend Mae Blythe. Now happily married, Mae comes to Johnny to request that Johnny use his influence to get her husband, a beat cop, a better assignment. We know what Mae does not, that it was Johnny who had her husband shipped to the boonies. Ms. Farrell takes the small role, and makes it quite memorable.
The New York Times review was positive; the Lux Radio Theatre would reprise the film in 1946, with Mr. Taylor and Mr. Heflin repeating their films, and Susan Peters subbing for Lana Turner.  We'll leave you with a scene featuring TnT together.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Ingrid's Bad Marriage

Following the murder of opera star Alice Alquist, her young niece Paula (Ingrid Bergman) is sent to Italy to live and work with Alice's dear friend and former voice teacher Maestro Guardi (Emil Rameau). Ten years later, Paula has fallen in love; her mentor encourages her to follow her heart. After some indecision, Paula elopes with Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), whom she has known for a scant two weeks. Gregory confesses to Paula his desire to live in London, and Paula decides it is time to re-open her aunt's home and give Gregory his dream. That dream turns into a nightmare for Paula, as Gregory slowly and systematically begins to Gaslight (1944) her.

AFI Silver presented Gaslight as part of a program recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October).  If you've heard of the term "to gaslight," it originated with the 1938 stage play from which this play was adapted. Gaslighting is defined as " to attempt to make (someone) believe that he or she is going insane (as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation)" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). And if anyone is the personification of the gaslighted woman, it is Ingrid Bergman. With merely her eyes, and by changes in posture, Ms. Bergman is magnificent as a woman being continually cowed by the man that she loves. We first see Paula around the age of 12 - and you believe Ms. Bergman IS a child (it helps that she doesn't talk - director George Cukor knows that her voice would reveal her age, and so he lets her tell her story just with the stunned look on her face.  We then watch her become a woman who goes from independence to fearful dependence. It's a phenomenal performance, certainly worthy of the Oscar that was given to Ms. Bergman. (She was up against stellar competition: Claudette Colbert in Since You Went Away; Bette Davis in Mr. Skeffington, Greer Garson in Mrs. Parkington; and Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. Not a decision I want to make!) In an interview of the American Film Institute, Lynn Redgrave focused on Ms. Bergman's expert handling of this role.
Charles Boyer certainly makes a case for citing this film as one about domestic violence. Yes, his goal is to find the jewels that the late Alice Alquist hid somewhere in the house. But Boyer paints a picture of a man who likes the power that his manipulation is providing. When Paula finally rebels against him, Boyer initially cringes as he sees his control ebbing. But then his eyes change - he's discovered a better way to humiliate her; there is triumph, pleasure, and satisfaction in that look. Boyer, like Berman, can do much with just the briefest glint in the eyes. We know there is no reason for him to pull this subterfuge - all he needs to do is tell Paula he would like to prowl through Alice's costumes. But Boyer demonstrates that Anton's actions are about power over Paula and a revenge against Alice for complicating his life. On a personal note, Boyer's wife was pregnant with their only child during the filming of Gaslight. Though it was believed the child would be born after filming ended, Patricia Boyer delivered a few weeks early. The cast celebrated the event with champagne! (TCM articles)
Angela Lansbury, in her first film role (she also appeared as the older sister in National Velvet that same year), was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress. She is marvelous as Nancy Oliver, a servant girl, who has delusions of seducing the master of the house and supplanting her mistress. In the video below, she discusses her experiences on the film, including the celebration of her 18th birthday on the set. Nominated three times for the Oscar (including a nomination for The Manchurian Candidate, which is arguably her finest film performance), Ms Lansbury was not awarded an Academy Award until 2013 when she was (finally) given a Special Oscar. Though her film roles were varied, Ms. Lansbury's greatest impact was felt in the theatre. She currently has 5 Tonys to her credit, with an additional two nominees. She was also nominated 18 times (including TWELVE consecutive nominations for Murder She Wrote) for the Emmy Award. She was married for 54 years to Peter Shaw (until his death in 2003), and has two children. You can see Ms. Lansbury next year, as the Balloon Lady in the remake of Mary Poppins.
Joseph Cotten is also very good as Brian Cameron (in the stage play, the character was named Rough, and there was no romantic attraction between him and Mrs. Anton. In the American production, Angel Street, the part was played by Leo G. Carroll). Mr. Cotton brings just the right amount of gravitas to the role, but there is also a twinkle in his eye as he describes to Mrs. Anton his interest in her and her Aunt Alice. His interactions with Constable Williams (Tom Stevenson) are wonderful, as they converse about both the case and Nancy. And the scene in which he asks Lady Dalroy (Heather Thatcher) to seat him next to Mrs. Anton at dinner is wonderful. It is unclear as to whether he is attracted to Paula, or to the fact that she so much resembles her aunt. But, at the point at which Brian enters her life, Paula very much needs a friend, and Brian has already been shown to be a kind and sympathetic figure.

Is there anyone who can play dotty canniness like Dame May Whitty? The character of Miss Bessy Thwaites was an invention of the film (she's not in the play or the British film), and she is delightful, though a bit scary as a murder stalker. Sure, she adds a bit of comic relief, but multiple viewings help you realize that SHE is a key factor in Paula's marriage to Gregory. Had she not brought up Alice's murder on the train, would Paula have fallen so readily into Gregory's arms? True, she supplies valuable information to Brian about the goings on in the house, but on many levels it is disturbing that she knows so much ABOUT the Antons' lives.

The original play, Gas Light was produced on the West End in 1938; in 1941, it opened on Broadway as Angel Street, with Vincent Price as the Anton character (called Manningham in the play). I was lucky enough to see an excellent 2007 off-Broadway production by the Irish Repertory Company (you can see a review here). There was also a British film, called Gaslight (1940), starring  Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard. It is still available for viewing, despite an MGM's efforts to destroy all copies of the film. There have also been six teleplays of the story (see the AFI Catalog for a listing of the tv versions and their casts) and a 1946 radio version in which Ms. Bergman and Mr. Boyer reprized their roles.

Gaslight was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, winning two (the other was for Cedric Gibbons Art Direction). The other nominees were Best Picture, Best Actor (Charles Boyer; this was his third of four nominations. He never won), Best Writing, Best Black and White Cinematography, and of course, Ms. Lansbury's nomination. (Though not costume design. A shame - Irene's costuming work is impressive in the film).  In the AFI's 100 Years, 100 Thrills, Gaslight placed at #78. 

If you've never seen the film, treat yourself with a viewing (keep the lights on!). In the meantime, we'll leave you with this trailer.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Greer's Bad Marriage

Told in flashback after the death of Philip Bosinney (Robert Young), That Forsyte Woman (1949) introduces us to Irene Herenford Forsyte (Greer Garson).  Irene's husband, Soames Forsyte (Errol Flynn) decided he wanted Irene as a wife - she was beautiful and dignified, and Soames is a man who gets what he wants. So, despite the fact that she is honest and tells him she does not love him, Soames cajoles her that love will come and she consents. But love does not come, primarily because Irene feels controlled by Soames: he picks her clothing, tells her where to go and when, and who to meet. For this Man of Property, Irene is one of his treasured possessions - she is a fine piece of art that he has purchased and now displays with pride.  Irene's one joy is her relationship with her niece June (Janet Leigh), who is madly in love with architect Philip Bosinney. The problem - Irene is falling in love with Bosinney as well.

This is an excellent film with a great deal of nuance. The script, which is taken carefully from John Galsworthy's first novel in The Forsyte Saga, The Man of Property, deals only with the marriage of Soames and Irene (whereas the 1967 and 2001 BBC series covered The Man of Property (1906), Indian Summer of a Forsyte (1918), In Chancery (1920), Awakening (1920) and To Let (1921), and A Modern Comedy (1928)). The story of Irene and Soames' marriage is fraught with problems in the novel - Irene has an affair with Philip, and Soames rapes Irene - issues the film could only suggest (or raise the ire of the censors!). But the hints are there; it only takes a little imagination to understand exactly what is going on.
Errol Flynn was borrowed from Warner Brothers to play Young Jolyon Forsyte (the role that ultimately went to Walter Pidgeon). (In exchange, Jack Warner got William Powell for Life with Father (AFI catalog). Once at MGM, Flynn refused to play young Jolyon. He was then offered the role of Bosinney; again he refused. Flynn wanted to play Soames - a drastic change from his usual swashbuckling roles (TCM article).  MGM finally agreed, and Flynn gave an impressive performance as a man who is involved only with the financial value of everyone and everything in his life. Once finished with this film, he was back to Warners, again making westerns and swashbucklers. It's amusing that he ends up in the video of the MGM 25th Anniversary Lunch, chatting happily with Greer Garson. Jack Warner must have been furious!

Greer Garson is intriging as a woman who is torn between an unhappy marriage and financial security. Irene is down to her last cent - she can only survive teaching piano, and her only client is her landlady. Soames' campaign to win her (he enlists the help of the landlady) catches her at a low point in her life and she succumbs. Likewise, Philip catches her as she begins to doubt her decision to marry Soames; it seems that her love for Philip really is a remembrance of the love she lost many years before. She comments that Philip is much like that idealist and untidy young man. Irene is a woman who wants to be strong, but often lets herself be led, against her better judgement.

Philip, however, comes off as thoughtless, at the least, and insincere at most. He pursues June when he first meets her; likewise, he is hot on the heels of Irene after their first encounter. We felt that, once Irene accedes to his advances, he will fall in love with someone else. We found it difficult to believe Philip, much less sympathize with him, he is so flighty.

Janet Leigh is lovely as June. She plays a genuinely nice girl, who is blasted into anger by betrayal. The character certainly deserves better than Philip! Ms. Leigh literally burst into stardom after Norma Shearer saw her photo on her father's desk at the ski resort where he worked. Her first film, The Romance of Rosy Ridge (1947) starred her opposite MGM heartthrob Van Johnson, and she starred in a succession of films afterwards, including Little Women (1949), Holiday Affair (1949), Angels in the Outfield (1951), and Scaramouche (1952). But it was Psycho (1960) that most people remember today. Among my personal favorites is her performance in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). (In a recent discussion of the film, William Friedkin posited that Rosie is a double agent. I'm never going to watch that movie again in the same way!) Ms. Leigh was married 4 times, most famously to the father of her daughters Kelly and Jamie Lee, Tony Curtis (the marriage lasted 11 years). She wrote four books (two novels, a memoir, and a book about Psycho). By the 1960s, she was making frequent television appearances (including another of my favorite, the sadistic Miss Diketon in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Concrete Overcoat Affair). She died in 2004, aged 77, three years after the death of her fourth husband, Robert Brandt - they had been married for 38 years.
This was the last filmed performance of Harry Davenport (Old Jolyon Forsyte), a remarkable character actor who is probably most remembered as Grandpa in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and Dr. Meade in Gone with the Wind (1939) [Two films would be released after this: Tell it to the Judge (1949) and Riding High (1950)]. The descendant of a long line of actors, Mr. Davenport began his career at the age of five (he was born in 1866). By 1894, he was appearing on Broadway. By 1934, he had appeared in 37 Broadway plays.  His film career began in 1913; he transitioned from silents to talkies, and spent much of his sound film career playing kindly grandfathers and professional men. In 1913, he co-founded (with Eddie Foy) the Actors' Equity Association. When his marriage to his first wife ended after three years, he married actress Phyllis Rankin - they were together for 33 years, until her death in 1934. They had three children together (Harry also had a daughter with his first wife, and Phyllis had a son - who would become the father of Arthur Rankin, Jr.). Mr. Davenport died of a heart attack in 1949, at the age of 83 - he was in the process of securing a new screen role when he died.
With exquisite costumes by Walter Plunkett (for the women) and Valles (for the men), lush technicolor photography by Joseph Ruttenberg, and art direction by Cedric Gibbons and Daniel Cathcart, this is a truly beautiful film. While the New York Times review was not kind to anyone but Ms. Garson, we enjoyed the film immensely. (It opened at Radio City Music Hall - definitely a prestige venue!). We'll leave you with the trailer, for a quick look at this lovely film.