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Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Louise Dresser holds nothing back in a great characterization as the Goose Woman, a faded prima donna who lost it all to booze & the child she resents giving birth to. Jack Pickford (Mary’s kid brother) gives an intriguing low-key perf as her son, a young man trying to better himself and hoping to win the hand of stage actress Constance Bennett. But when an older, richer admirer is found murdered near the Goose Woman’s dilapidated home, she can’t resist embellishing what little she knows about the crime to gain a bit of long sought public attention. Her extravagant lies implicate her estranged son, and though the ties of mother-love prove stronger than the pull of renewed fame, who will believe her now? It’s a perfect set up for a melodramatic weepie, and it’s atmospherically handled by helmer Clarence Brown and lenser Milton Moore (though you have to squint through a horrendous print & tone-deaf music cues on the miserable TeleVista DVD), but the plot mechanics fall to pieces halfway thru the pic, spoiling much of the fun. It’s just the sort of story construction problem that made Irving Thalberg so valuable as head-of-production @ Universal. But he was now ensconced, for better & for worse, @ M-G-M.

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