Over the last couple of years I've developed a great appreciation for Eleanor Parker, who for most of my life I identified with only one role, "The Baroness" in THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965). I've been especially impressed with Parker's earlier work in THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944) and PRIDE OF THE MARINES (1945). (Links for reviews of these and other Parker movies are at the bottom of this post.)
Thanks to the kindness of Carrie at Classic Ramblings, I was able to see a Parker film which was very high on my viewing wish list, THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE. What a treat! It's a charming, very romantic "feel good" movie which I'm sure I'll watch again many times in the future.
Based on a long-running play, THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE is about Sally Middleton (Eleanor Parker), a young New York actress looking for work but decidedly not looking for love, having been dumped one time too many by men who aren't interested in a serious relationship.
Enter Bill (Ronald Reagan), a soldier on weekend leave who has a date with Sally's flighty friend Olive (Eve Arden). When Olive cancels her date with Bill in order to go out with someone else, Bill and Sally go out together instead, which ends with an exhausted Bill (platonically) spending the night on Sally's living room sofa bed. Over the course of the weekend, Sally and Bill fall in love, but this time it's Sally who's afraid of commitment.
Parker and Reagan are absolutely delightful together. Parker's quirky, somewhat ditzy Sally, who believes her kitchen appliances have feelings and is terrified of opening the drawer with her egg beater, is great fun; her "matching" routine every time she pours two drinks is funnier each time she does it. A reviewer at IMDb writes "Eleanor Parker's charmingly seductive role constantly reminds one of a playful kitten forever running around after a ball of wool."
Since I first knew Ronald Reagan as the governor of my state, and of course later as President, I still find it a bit strange seeing "President Reagan" in movies. He's terrific in this as Sally's knight in shining armor -- he cooks and cleans! And he loves Sally despite (or because of?) some of her daffier habits. It's a very romantic part, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him in it. He's also quite amusing, particularly his amazement when he finds out Sally has "given up" romance; he disbelievingly replies "for Lent?" which was said in such a funny way I laughed out loud.
One of the film's greatest assets is its sense of time and place. The opening snowy Christmas sequence, in particular, has tremendous nostalgic "mood." I also especially liked how upbeat the movie is. I kept expecting Something Awful to throw a monkey wrench in Bill and Sally's romance, but the characters are together almost the entire movie, and the story simply keeps building toward an uplifting conclusion.
The original New York Times review said that the film was "in many ways much more satisfying" than the long-running stage play, starring Margaret Sullavan, on which it was based. The review goes on to say that "Miss Parker is altogether winning..she brings to it the innocence and bewilderment of youth that is so essential and in this respect she is even more successful than was Miss Sullavan."
As a side note, I couldn't help wondering if Neil Simon was inspired by the play or film version of THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE when he wrote THE GOODBYE GIRL -- New York actress looking for work, disappointed by love too many times, falls in love with a man who moves into her apartment...
The supporting cast includes Kent Smith and Wayne Morris. The film was directed by Irving Rapper, who was 101 when he passed away in 1999. Rapper's best-known films include NOW, VOYAGER (1942) and RHAPSODY IN BLUE (1945).
The movie was filmed in black and white and runs 103 minutes. It has also been shown under the title ONE FOR THE BOOK; in fact, that was on the title card of the copy I viewed.
THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE has been shown in the past on Turner Classic Movies. It's not available on DVD or VHS. The trailer can be seen at the TCM site here.
Eleanor Parker movies previously reviewed here: SOLDIERS IN WHITE and MEN OF THE SKY (1942 shorts), THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), CRIME BY NIGHT (1944), PRIDE OF THE MARINES (1945), DETECTIVE STORY (1951), SCARAMOUCHE (1952), ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (1953), and MANY RIVERS TO CROSS (1955).