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Monday, October 11, 2010

MY REPUTATION (1946)

Is it improper for a pretty young widow to fall in love again? How do you adjust to life alone? To sew or not to sew? Buy a tv? Adopt a cat? Is it lady-like to follow your bliss? Fans of Women’s Weepies will recognize the characters: the overbearing mother; the disapproving relatives & hypocritical friends; a wisecracking gal-pal and the loyal plain-talking domestic; a suitably dull suitor for a companiate match. It might be NOW, VOYAGER/’42, the Bette Davis classic, though the plot is more like Douglas Sirk’s ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS/’55, right down to the snow motif and the disapproving children.* But a smart script and Barbara Stanwyck’s brisk sentiment help this vehicle stand on its own merits. Helmer Curtis Bernhardt & lenser James Wong Howe keep things moving and give it just enough style, plus there’s fine support from a chummy Eve Arden (less brittle than usual); Jerome Cowan as a creep with strong hands & fast lips; and an exceptional turn from young Scotty Beckett as Stanwyck's thin-skinned older son. (He had a big year, also playing young Al Jolson in THE JOLSON STORY.) George Brent is typically underwhelming as Stanwyck’s unsuitable new fellow, it may be why the film isn’t as well known as it might be.** But there’s something touching in seeing Babs’ fall so hard for someone who’s not incandescent.

SCREWY THOUGHT(S) OF THE DAY: *Stanwyck’s character actually has a couple of teenaged kids in the film. A rarely seen creature in this genre.

**Brent was a Warners contract player, but he did his best work off his home turf: SPIRAL STAIRCASE/’46 @ Universal; PAINTED VEIL/’34 @ M-G-M; THE RAINS CAME/’39 @ 20th/Fox.

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