Saturday, June 11, 2016

Tonight's Movie: My Foolish Heart (1949) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Susan Hayward and Dana Andrews star in MY FOOLISH HEART (1949), available from the Warner Archive's line of Samuel Goldwyn Classics.

Hayward and Andrews play the star-crossed Eloise and Walt, who fall in love just before the U.S. entry into WWII. Their relationship moves along in fits and starts, punctuated by crises such as Hayward being expelled from college and Walt being drafted into the army.

As the time draws near for Walt to ship overseas, Eloise must decide whether to share some critical news with Walt before it's too late...

Matters then go from bad to worse as Eloise hurts her friends Lew (Kent Smith) and Mary Jane (Lois Wheeler) as a means of coping with her problems.

I was really of two minds about this film. I was impatient with the storyline, in which the lead characters make a series of immature poor choices which lead to one problem after another. The title of the film was certainly apt!

In essence the film is a character study of Eloise and Walt, two imperfect people who have a chance at something good but aren't able to see it through. In that regard, it's fairly depressing, rather than romantic; things could have so easily gone a better way for Eloise and Walt.

On the other hand, the story is compellingly told, with superb lead performances from Andrews, Robert Keith (as Eloise's father), and the Oscar-nominated Hayward. Hayward in particular is absolutely excellent, believably taking her character through a wide range of emotions. As the movie opens she's a semi-suicidal lush, and then thanks to a flashback we go back in time and she's a bubbly, starry-eyed "nice girl" who falls head over heels for Walt.

Walt's a nice guy too, but not quite nice enough to think about the fact that he constantly exposes Eloise to risks, whether he's inviting her to his apartment to make a pass at her, letting her travel back to her dorm alone late at night, sneaking with her into said dorm, or exposing her to the possibility of unplanned parenthood while he's gone, possibly never to return. For someone who claimed to love her so much, he was awfully self-centered.

Thanks to the talent of Hayward and Andrews, we care about Eloise and Walt despite their flaws, and we root for them to succeed as they grapple with their relationship. These are deep, rich, performances, particularly from Hayward -- who has the larger role -- and from that standpoint it's a must-see for their fans.

Robert Keith is delightful as Eloise's adoring father. The following year he reunited with Andrews and director Mark Robson for the Korean War film I WANT YOU (1951).

The supporting cast of MY FOOLISH HEART includes Karin Booth, Jessie Royce Landis, Gigi Perreau, Marietta Canty, and Todd Karns.

Martha Mears, who dubbed actresses such as Rita Hayworth and Marjorie Reynolds earlier in the '40s, sings the classic title song in a nightclub. The song, composed by Victor Young, was nominated for the Oscar but lost to "Baby, It's Cold Outside."

MY FOOLISH HEART runs 98 minutes. It was filmed in black and white by Lee Garmes.

There are a couple of scenes which are more faded than the rest of the film, but on the whole this is a good-looking DVD. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

5 Comments:

Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I have to say that I like this movie very much, probably more than you did. The song "My Foolish Heart" helps a lot--a real beauty and a standout even for Victor Young. Mostly, these days, I hear it as jazz pianist Bill Evans played it in a very poignant trio performance at the Village Vanguard in 1961.

You didn't mention it but the film is based on a short story "Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut" by J.D. Salinger--the movie expanded it in a thoughtful and creative way, mostly through flashbacks involving Walt. The story is concise and brilliant on its own and I must tell you, Laura, that it has an even bleaker, sadder feeling than the movie.

I believe many movies--including this one--are supposed to be about people who are flawed, make poor decisions, cost themselves happiness, those kinds of things. And I also feel that these movies are supposed to invite our understanding of these characters, and not our judgement. So I respond too these movies in terms of well they do this.

Just throwing that out there as something to think about..

1:04 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Blake,

Great to hear from you! Victor Young wrote so many great songs and scores.

Always appreciate your takes! It's interesting, there are some movies where I take the flawed characters as they are; I find it interesting to watch and understand them, as you suggest, but don't go much further than that. An example might be John Garfield and Shelley Winters in HE RAN ALL THE WAY, which I liked a great deal.

In some other movies, often those which aren't as well made, I become impatient with what I jokingly call "stupid characters doing stupid things."

Then there's my third type of response, as with this movie, where I kind of combine those two reactions; I'm interested but also impatient. I think perhaps this happens with characters I really want to like more yet can't. I had no expectation of liking John Garfield's crook in HE RAN ALL THE WAY, but Dana Andrews is one of my faves and I confess I was expecting a character a little more admirable! I found Walt's behavior so repeatedly ungallant that it marred him for me, and I wished Eloise had valued herself enough not to keep going along with it. Not that her decisions were surprising; despite having an adoring father who must have tried hard to give her a secure upbringing, she was clearly lacking in the self-esteem department. (Perhaps her oddball mother played a role there...) However, the movie was so well presented and acted that it kept me interested throughout, trying to understand them more (along with some judging! LOL).

Many thanks for mentioning the Salinger story the film is based on. Your thoughts on how it was translated to film are quite interesting. For those who might want to check it out, it's available in the collection NINE STORIES.

Best wishes,
Laura

1:38 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

Yeah, that Nine Stories is worth anyone's time--not completely even but they are all worth reading. The masterpiece of the nine for me is "The Laughing Man." When I was young I was quite the Salinger fan so had read "Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut" before I ever saw MY FOOLISH HEART.

We all respond to characters in movies in our way, and I wouldn't want to change that. I just think it's worth talking about that idea of judgement once in awhile--they are all made up people so nothing they do affects us in a real world way; I guess that's why I feel we can experience what happens to them in a way that is more reflective and free of judgement.

In a recent piece I liked your friend Kristina wrote on THE MAN FROM LARAMIE. She was very hard on Dave (Alex Nicol)--the subject of the piece for a Villains blogathon--and I'd say she judged him harshly (and it would be hard not to do so as he never has a redeemable moment or action no matter how much one understands why he became the way he is) but she also talked about Vic (Arthur Kennedy), structurally the movie's main villain, and kept considerable sympathy for him, more than you did as I recall (though I remember you had some). I think most agree about that, seeing Vic as a tragic figure (it could also be said of Alec/Donald Crisp)--a flawed man who does fall into villainy but well-motivated and all too human from beginning to end, and such a complex character helped make this the great Western it is.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the additional feedback on NINE STORIES. My son likes Salinger so I'll have to see if he's familiar with these.

Definitely good thoughts on how we look at characters. I think one of the values of movies can be not only looking at the unique, interesting characters who don't affect us, and enjoying them "as is," but simultaneously reflecting on how we might approach situations ourselves, or how we'd like to ideally see the characters handle things. I think both things -- freely experiencing the fictional world, which might not be anything like we'd want in real life (grin), yet also relating it to our own experiences and values -- make for a richer viewing experience.

Here is Kristina's MAN FROM LARAMIE post if anyone would like to pop over for a visit!

Incidentally, I just realized that somehow in the editing process I flipped two paragraphs, and that early part of the post didn't make as much sense. Those paragraphs are now back in the order they belong. :)

Best wishes,
Laura

2:30 PM  
Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

Hi, thanks for the link and nice mention. Really enjoyed reading through this discussion on responses and ways of relating. The vicarious nature of film is a great way to look at character judgment, haven't really thought of it that way even though that "distance" is definitely a big part of why challenging/scary/edgy subjects feels safer in movies and rarely bother me. Laramie is a fun example of my emotional responses, I tend to get personal about characters, especially when they remind me of someone or a specific situation. Such a fun subject.

11:41 AM  

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