Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1948. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by William Ludwig, Harry Ruskin, Arthur Wimperis, adaptation by Gina Kaus, Monckton Hoffe, based on a novel by Margery Sharp. Cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg. Produced by Everett Riskin. Music by Adolph Deutsch. Production Design by Daniel B. Cathcart, Cedric Gibbons. Costume Design by Irene. Film Editing by John D. Dunning.
Positively delightful, this is one of many films that Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon made together but the only time they tried comedy. She plays a capricious theatrical actress who long ago left behind her aristocratic husband (Pidgeon) and infant daughter, now almost two decades later still surviving by her wits and the odd con. She gets an invitation out of the blue from her now grown daughter (Elizabeth Taylor, dewy and perfect) who is getting married and wants her long lost mother by her side. Pidgeon and his horribly snobby mother (an unapologetic Lucile Watson) try to keep Garson at bay but they are no match for her popularity and relentless good cheer. Cesar Romero and Mary Boland have a hilarious subplot as stage acrobats with whom Garson does a positively hysterical musical number, while Peter Lawford is the picture of handsome youth as the painter with whom Taylor has angry fights while preparing for a marriage with an unseen blue-blood. Scripted intelligently and directed with marvelous energy, this precursor to Douglas Sirk’s All I Desire and Jonathan Demme’s Ricki And The Flash (neither of which can match it for quality) is notable for being both perpetually funny and deeply moving: Garson, who was far more famous, to a caricatured degree, as a dramatic actress, handles comedy with superb aplomb, but when she is given moments to hold people to account for the wrongs they have done her manages to transmit enormous depth without derailing the film’s overall sweet and light tone.