Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1951. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, Richard L. Breen, based on the play Maggie by Caesar Dunn. Cinematography by Charles Lang. Produced by Charles Brackett. Music by Joseph J. Lilley. Production Design by Roland Anderson, Hal Pereira. Costume Design by Oleg Cassini. Film Editing by Frank Bracht. Academy Awards 1951. Golden Globe Awards 1951.
John Lund plays an ambitious worker at an Ohio industrial company who meets and marries a gorgeous socialite (Gene Tierney) after he saves her from falling down a cliff. The day of their marriage, his mother (Thelma Ritter) comes to visit, having just shut down her New Jersey hamburger joint after the bank came to collect on a loan that she couldn’t repay. Upon first meeting her, Tierney accidentally mistakes Ritter for a cook and the mother-in-law keeps the charade up, thinking her son’s marriage will fare better under the ruse despite the fact that Lund is very much against the idea. Things progress under bumpier circumstances when Tierney’s horrific snob of a mother (Miriam Hopkins, steaming ahead at 150% as always) shows up and really stirs things up, while Ritter wins everyone over with her salty wisdom and charm. It’s a slim, sweet effort, sort of a lighthearted Stella Dallas that is both an education in outdated class politics (I hope no one is as good natured about accepting their lower station of life as Ritter is here) but at the same time quite open-minded (no one seems to notice that Tierney doesn’t have a snobbish bone in her body). What makes it worthwhile is Ritter herself: the squeak of that voice and accent are something to look forward to every time she speaks, and she manages to squeeze a fully rounded characterization out of what is otherwise a passable B-movie. Also look for a terrific supporting turn by the always memorable Jan Sterling.