Friday, May 05, 2006


A charming domestic comedy involving two alumni from MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET: the director, George Seaton, and the star, Edmumd Gwenn. The humor is leavened a bit with some dark shades, which gives the movie a distinctive edge. It uses the post-WWII GI college boom and simultaneous housing shortage as plot points, which may confuse current viewers a bit. Gwenn plays a college professor who is contemplating suicide because he's being forced into retirement. On a chilly winter afternoon while feeding birds on a park bench, he meets up with chatty young Jeanne Crain, wife of GI student William Holden, who tells Gwenn how desperate they are for housing, especially with a baby on the way. Gwenn agrees to put in a good word for her with college administrator Gene Lockhart, and Lockhart decides to place the couple in Gwenn's attic, which Crain re-makes into a cozy little apartment. Of course, Gwenn is a bit cold about the whole thing at first, but eventually he warms to them, agreeing to teach an informal class for the GI wives who don't want to feel left behind by their husbands, and even giving up the idea of killing himself. There are complications: Crain suffers a miscarriage; Holden decides he doesn't want to wait for a degree and drops out to take a job at a used car dealership; Gwenn tries to talk him into coming back to school, and when he thinks he's failed, he returns to his suicidal ways, but all things are put right in the end. Much of the charm of the film is in its details: Crain is forever making up statistics to argue her side of any point; Gwenn cusses by reeling off the names of the books of the Bible; in the one moment that made me laugh out loud, Gwenn tells a bad joke to his class of housewives and Lockhart gives the camera a wonderful split-second reaction. I loved the use of the beautiful Irish song, "I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls" in a couple of scenes. [FMC]

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