Wednesday, January 02, 2002


This movie gave me new respect for Olivia De Havilland. She played a part unlike any I'd ever seen her do, and she did a great job. She plays a woman who has had a breakdown and is sent to an institution to recover. The movie opens quite effectively with De Havilland sitting on a bench, somewhat disoriented, hearing voices and delivering an interior monologue, not quite knowing where she is or why she's there. We learn, along with her, what's happening as she encounters other patients (who include Celeste Holm, Beulah Bondi, Lee Patrick, Ruth Donnelly, and Betsy Blair, who was Gene Kelly's wife at the time). She undergoes shock treatment and therapy (with Leo Genn as a sympathetic doctor who always seems to have a portrait of Freud hanging conspicuously above his head) and slowly her memories of her life return. She gets worse before she gets better, and the best scene is when she is thrown into the "snake pit," a ward full of violent patients. In a wonderful shot, we see it as De Havilland sees it, seen from high in the sky like a huge pit in the ground. Her ultimate breakthrough feels a bit simplistic--the message seems to be, "You shouldn't want to sleep with your father"--but De Havilland never strikes a false note in the whole movie. Natalie Schafer (Mrs. Howell from GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) has a small part as De Havilland's mother in flashback scenes.

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