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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

THE VALLEY OF DECISION (1945)

M-G-M must have been thinking HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY/’41 on this one. Pittsburgh steel foundries are in for Welsh coal mines, but labor strikes, Upstairs/Downstairs relationships, malicious gossip, children leaving home, moms with compromised health, dying dads & romantic renunciations abound. All that’s missing is . . . well, just about everything. It’s all reduced, in typical plush M-G-M house style, to over-produced mush. A sort of styleless anti-verisimilitude with solid pro director Tay Garnett completely out of his element, even the acting is all over the map. The main interest comes in watching young, fast-rising Gregory Peck as the steel family scion (already devastating in his third pic), and noting how Greer Garson, as the house maid from a laboring family who selflessly refuses Peck’s proposals, has suddenly become insufferable. She seems to condescend to everyone, even to her own character, with a voice that’s gone from cultivated to clabbered. Her reign was brief, about six big pics in six years, but away from roles that had her placed on a ladylike pedestal, her decline painfully stately. It was her next, ADVENTURE/’45, with its famous ‘Gable’s Back and Garson’s Got Him!’ tagline, that took the blame. But this hit was the turning point. It’s just that in the wake of Peck’s phenomenal pull, no one noticed.

DOUBLE-BILL/SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Garson had just played a house maid who married her boss in MRS. PARKINGTON/’44 (not seen here). She’s brunette in that one, and somehow Gladys Cooper, Greg Peck’s mom here, is Greer’s daughter there! No stretch for Garson who in real life had married the actor who played her son in MRS. MINIVER/’42.

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