Friday, October 10, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Apartment for Peggy (1948)

Peggy Taylor (Jeanne Crain) is the pregnant 19-year-old wife of Jason (William Holden), an ex-Navy man attending college just after WWII.

There's a severe housing shortage on campus, but whirlwind Peggy talks her way into renting the attic of a depressed retired professor, Henry Barnes (Edmund Gwenn). Before long Peggy, an exuberant chatterbox, has turned the life of staid, suicidal Professor Barnes completely upside-down, and Professor Barnes finds he still has many reasons for living.

I first saw APARTMENT FOR PEGGY as a teenager and it has been a fond memory ever since. Having the opportunity to see the movie again was a real joy; it was even better than I had remembered. Seeing it from the perspective of an adult, it struck very deep emotional chords.

The performances are top-notch. Peggy is one of Jeanne Crain's best performances. She hits the notes just right as determined Peggy, making her a very real, fully-rounded character. Holden doesn't have as much to do as Jason, but he is also excellent as a man overcoming the trauma of difficult war experiences and struggling to achieve his dream of a college education while providing for his wife and baby. Gwenn is very moving as Professor Barnes, who is surprised to discover that he still has much to contribute despite his advanced age.

The marvelous supporting cast includes Gene Lockhart and Griff Barnett. Charles Lane has a terrific two-scene turn as a tough chemistry professor; his terse yet understanding discussion with Holden near the end of the film is a touching turning point in the story.

APARTMENT FOR PEGGY was written and directed by George Seaton, who the previous year directed Edmund Gwenn in his Oscar-winning performance in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET.

The film runs 96 minutes. It was shot in gorgeous Fox Technicolor.

APARTMENT FOR PEGGY is not particularly well-remembered today, but at the time of the film's release, Bosley Crowther of the New York Times described the movie in glowing terms: "...superior exposition of human characters through a wealth of enchanting enriching picture."

Variety also gave it an excellent review.

Some of the campus scenes were shot at the University of Nevada at Reno. (I wish I'd realized it when we visited Reno last summer!) The scene with the students ice skating takes place on the campus at Manzanita Lake. Other films shot on the campus include MOTHER IS A FRESHMAN with Loretta Young and Van Johnson and MR. BELVEDERE GOES TO COLLEGE with Clifton Webb and Shirley Temple.

APARTMENT FOR PEGGY has been shown in the past on Fox Movie Channel, so perhaps it will turn up there again one day. As I have written previously, it's a shame that this film and other Jeanne Crain classics such as MARGIE aren't available on DVD or video.

APARTMENT FOR PEGGY is loved by many other viewers, as attested to by the film's high 7.1 rating at IMDb. One comment at IMDb was titled "Gold in the Unlikeliest Places" and said the film "needs rediscovery."

I heartily agree.

March 2013 Update: APARTMENT FOR PEGGY is now out on DVD-R from the Fox Cinema Archives. I've read a couple reviews indicating print quality is just so-so.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This does sound like a charmer. I can see now why you've mentioned it before with such affection. Here's hoping Fox will get wise and release it!


2:43 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope so too, Carrie! It really deserves it.

Best wishes,

10:46 PM  
Blogger rocksolidredhead said...

I also saw this movie as a child and my mom told me that it was one of many "Peggy" movies. I haven't been able to find any other ones, but since my mom doesn't lie about these things I wonder if there is?
The movie itself does give some clues to there being other movies before it and leading up to it. It'd be cool if we could find them.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm unaware of any other PEGGY movies but if you find anything out I'd love to have the information.

Best wishes,

8:58 PM  
Blogger rocksolidredhead said...

I'm wondering if she's meaning a series of "Peggy" movies that were put out in the 20's...Which would be before her time, but then there were also books by Faith Baldwin that the movie was based on called "An Apartment for Jenny" and "Jenny gets a Job" and so forth...Hard to say. My mom is near eighty. So she could have gotten it mixed up when she told me this. She has done that before, but I agree, a great movie for it's time. A real time capsule and something that my daughter would see as contemporary even now.

9:11 PM  

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