Sunday, November 20, 2011


Irene Dunne's husband, a well-known doctor, has just died of a heart attack. She is told he might have been saved, but the boat that could have taken him to medical attention was being used to attend to a drunken playboy (Robert Taylor) who fell into a lake. Taylor, being cared for in the same hospital that the doctor founded, is cocky and obnoxious (and quite handsome) but unaware at first that he is being blamed by some for the doc's death. Not wanting to stay in the hospital, he escapes and has a roadside encounter with Dunne. She doesn't hold him responsible, but he is insensitive enough to flirt with her. After going on another bender, Taylor winds up sleeping it off at the house of sculptor Ralph Morgan, a friend of the doctor's, who tells Taylor about the doc’s "secret": he believed that one could be "in contact with a source of infinite power" and improve one's life by giving generously to others without public acknowledgement. It turns out that the doctor had spent most of his life giving away his wealth to needy individuals, Morgan being one of them who then went on to implement the philosophy in his own life. Taylor gives some money to a beggar and moments later runs into Dunne, which he takes as a cosmic sign, but in the act of resisting his advances, she is hit by a car, winds up blinded, and falls into a deep depression. Later he befriends her, not telling her who he is, eventually bringing her out of her shell, but when he "comes out" to her, she opts to leave him, thinking he's with her out of pity.

So far, a solid romantic melodrama. The incredible soap opera turn occurs when Taylor decides to finish up the medical degree he had been working on when his playboy tendencies took over. A mere six years later, he is a world-famous doctor and a Nobel Prize winner to boot. Dunne has been living in isolation and in decline, due to a "slow clot," and Taylor decides to take on her case in a risky operation. Will he save her life and her sight? Let's just say the playboy didn't get a Nobel Prize for nothing! This is based on a very popular novel of the day, and the colorful and glossy 1956 remake by Douglas Sirk is known as Rock Hudson's first big hit (with Jane Wyman as the blind love interest). This version, which has been out of circulation for some time, is less ostentatious and generally a bit more believable. Taylor and Dunne (pictured) have good chemistry, Morgan is fine, and the supporting cast includes Betty Furness as the doc's daughter, Charles Butterworth as her comic relief "older gentleman" friend, Sara Haden as a supervising nurse, and Arthur Treacher as, of course, a butler, who gets the best line: When asked if someone is "dippy," he replies, "If you mean, is he barmy in the crumpet? Yes!" Available on Criterion DVD as a supplement with the Sirk version. [TCM]

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