Friday, December 06, 2002


Ogden Nash is credited as a screenwriter on this film but I certainly don't see evidence of his wit here. A passel of good actors is mostly wasted on this soap opera with underdeveloped characterization. Joan Crawford is a dancer whose suitor is the "gentleman farmer" Melvyn Douglas. The mood in the beginning is fairly light as Crawford finally gives in to the persistent Douglas and agrees to marry him even though she does not love him. Douglas' brother, Robert Young, happens to arrive for a visit the night they announce their engagement. He expresses official family disapproval, but the marriage happens anyway and Douglas takes Crawford to live with him at the family compound. Margaret Sullavan is Young's wife and Fay Bainter is the boys' sister, a neurotic spinster who sort of runs the family. It turns out that Young never really loved Sullavan and has fallen in love with Crawford, who, of course, doesn't really love Douglas. On the night that Douglas' new house is finished, things come to a melodramatic head with a fire, injuries, and heroics. The actors are all fine, but they aren't given much to work with in terms of motivation. 20 years later, this might have been an interesting Faulkneresque drama along the lines of THE LONG HOT SUMMER (or even Crawford's QUEEN BEE), but too much is left unsaid here. Allyn Joslyn plays Crawford's manager and former romantic interest who drops out fairly early. Frank Albertson has a dopey juvenile role here even though he was clearly getting too old for that kind of part. Hattie McDaniel has basically one nice scene as Crawford's maid, then disappears. Bainter's character has the most potential, but also winds up the most ambiguously presented. One funny line has someone saying about Bainter after she's quoted the Bible, "One of these days, we're going to put her in all the hotel rooms."

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