Thursday, February 14, 2008

PEG O' MY HEART (1933)

I've never quite gotten the appeal of Marion Davies. I know she's not the talentless spectacle that Susan Alexander Kane (the character based on her in CITIZEN KANE) is, but at the same time, I find her to be pretty much without charisma. On the basis of the three or four films of hers I've seen I doubt she would have been a leading lady for long without the financial backing of William Randolph Hearst. This film does little to change my mind about her. In an Irish fishing village, the young Peg (Davies) lives with her good-natured father (J. Farrell MacDonald). An upper class lawyer (Onslow Stevens) arrives one day with the news that Davies has been left an estate of 2 million pounds from her dead mother's family, but there are two conditions: she must spend three years getting a proper social education by living with a stuffy family in London, and she must agree to cut all ties to her father. MacDonald sends her off, not telling her about the second condition. The family, led by icy matriarch Irene Browne, is upper-class but has fallen on hard times and is hosting Davies for money. The somewhat reserved Stevens slowly thaws and becomes a supportive figure to the girl who is looked down upon by most of the family members. Browne disapproves of Davies' grammar and her scruffy dog. The friendly but rather fey son (Tyrell Davis) proposes to her, but is ecstatic when she refuses him. Davies discovers that Browne's daughter, who is supposed to be engaged to Stevens, is having a clandestine affair and Davies develops a crush on Stevens; the climax of the film involves this situation. The film is predictable but amusing. Davies, who was in her mid-30's, was too old to pass for a virginal kid in pigtails in the early scenes, but is OK in the last half. Stevens goes in the opposite direction: he's fine early on, but when he's called upon to become a sympathetic romantic lead, he stumbles; I imagine he's better at second leads. [TCM]

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