Starring: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Felix Bressart, Marsha Hunt
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Summary: The story of Edna Gladney, who fought for orphans’ rights in Texas
Other Nominations: Actress (Garson), Color Art Direction*, Color Cinematography
-Garson’s performance is what kept me interested in the movie, giving the role sweetness and likability in general, while also being tough or even selfish when she needs to. This is the first time I’ve seen her in a role where she can really shine and she ends up making an otherwise not very good movie to being pretty watchable. This was the first of five consecutive Best Actress nominations for Garson, a feat only matched by Bette Davis; she won the award once, for a movie we’ll cover next year and had 7 total nominations in her career.
-The second half of the film is mostly good and is much more focused, doing a good job of sufficiently covering only a couple of important things and gives Garson a chance to show off her range.
-The first half of the movie is a mess. The movie tries to cram in a ton of story points into a short period of time and the result is it devolves into “Cavalcade Storytelling”: it goes from significant event to a couple of years in the future to another significant event, then skips again, wash, rinse and repeat. The big problem with this is that the impact of those events are severely marginalized and we get emotional whiplash: more than once we see a horrible tragedy that would have a dramatic effect on a person, then immediately we transition to 2 years in the future and everybody is happy and the previous event isn’t mentioned. This is a really bad way of telling a story and is happens when you have a bunch of things you need to cover but don’t allocate enough to time to do it the right way. Furthermore, a lot of these points didn’t even need to be there, as they didn’t actually happen (as far as I can tell) and are only there because the movie things the main character needs very specific and obvious motivations for why she takes up her cause.
-There are a number of black servant characters in the movie and they’re all represented in a very stereotypical way for the time period which gets grating and distractingly bad everytime they show up.
-The villains in this movie are all really on the nose and over the top in a movie that doesn’t need anything quite so cartoonish
This is about a woman whose story deserved to be told, and Garson was a great choice to play her. The problem is that they should have told the story with a script that flows better and doesn’t resort to cheap (and fictitious) heart-string pulling moments for a story that’s compelling enough without them.