Thursday, December 13, 2001


Andy Hardy meets the Joad family. Not quite, I guess, but close. Anne Baxter is a young woman named Tessa who lives with her younger sister and brothers and her grandfather on an old houseboat in Florida during WWII. Their financial status is somewhere between the Hardys and the Joads; they struggle constantly to make ends meet. The grandfather (Charles Winninger in a old-sea-salt beard) thinks that Tessa's best bet is to marry a boring man she likes but doesn't love, but that will break up the family. Tessa decides to go through with it and plans one last event for everyone: hosting a Sunday dinner for a soldier from a nearby base. A series of domestic complications ensue, mostly comic, and some involving Anne Revere, playing a friendly woman who is alternately flirting and sparring with Winninger (for unexplained reasons, everyone calls him Grandfeather). Although we sometimes see her as needlessly snippy, ultimately she plays the role of a kind of guardian angel to the family.

Baxter is very good as the young woman who has been thrust into the role of mother to her siblings. She is robust and sexy but still has the feel of a person who will soon be worn down by life. The houseboat and surrounding area is obviously a studio set, but it's atmospheric enough, especially during a scene involving a big storm. The soldier is John Hodiak, an odd-looking man--his features are almost too exaggerated to really be called handsome, but he does charm Tessa (of course) and the kids, and eventually Grandfeather. The ending is predictable homefront propaganda. Jane Darwell (Ma Joad in GRAPES OF WRATH) plays a USO worker and Chill Wills plays a carbon copy of his part as the delivery man in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, with slightly more importance to the plot. One of the kids is Bobby Driscoll, later a Disney star who drifted into drug addiction and died alone in an abandoned buidling in NYC at the age of 31.

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