Saturday, November 08, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Claudia (1943)

CLAUDIA (Dorothy McGuire) is the giddy young bride of David (Robert Young), an architect.

Claudia and David enjoy an idyllic life together on a farm in the Connecticut countryside. David dotes on his wife but at the same time is concerned about Claudia's inability to commit completely to an adult life away from her mother (Ina Claire). A combination of happy and tragic news finally pushes Claudia over the brink into adulthood and a more mature relationship with both her husband and her mother.

I saw CLAUDIA on commercial television as a teenager but remembered little about it, other than it was "darker" than I had expected; it might be called a tragicomedy. Viewing the film today, I deeply appreciated the finely wrought characterizations and the realistic depiction of life's blessings and difficulties, as Claudia learns that nothing stays the same forever, and she also learns that she is strong enough to face life head-on.

Dorothy McGuire became a star when she created the role of Claudia on Broadway; the film version was her first movie. It's a superb performance. Robert Young, an underrated actor, matches her every step of the way. His baffled but loving reactions to his bubbly wife's impulsiveness and non sequiturs are charming; a solo scene late in the film in which he receives bad news over the phone is a heartbreaking, very real piece of acting. Together Young and McGuire are a lovely pair.

TCM's movie blog has an excellent new essay by moirafinnie about Dorothy McGuire's early film work, with interesting background and analysis on CLAUDIA. Her post inspired me to get out the tape I recorded some months ago and watch the movie this weekend. (Update: Here is a second post on McGuire.)

Three years later Young and McGuire reunited for a sequel, CLAUDIA AND DAVID (1946). In the intervening years the pair also starred in the beloved romantic fantasy THE ENCHANTED COTTAGE (1945). In 1978 they also appeared together in a TV production of LITTLE WOMEN, in which McGuire played Marmee and Young was her neighbor, Grandfather Lawrence.

CLAUDIA was directed by Edmund Goulding. It was filmed in black and white and runs 91 minutes. The supporting cast includes Elsa Janssen, Reginald Gardiner, and Jean Howard.

As a side note, I have a lovely old copy of THE BOOK OF CLAUDIA by Rose Franken, which contains both CLAUDIA and CLAUDIA AND DAVID. I'm going to be rereading it soon.

CLAUDIA can be seen as part of the library on Fox Movie Channel. It is not yet available on VHS or DVD.

2012 Update: CLAUDIA is now available on DVD-R thanks to the Fox Cinema Archives. The sequel, CLAUDIA AND DAVID, is out on DVD-R as well.


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I saw only part of this movie years ago, so I can't comment except I'm always glad to read someone's opinions on Dorothy McGuire. I also agree that Robert Young was well-matched with her, another underrated performer. Thanks for the link to the TCM blog essay.

5:11 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I enjoyed your posts on GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT, Jacqueline! McGuire certainly had a list of impressive credits.

Best wishes,

8:11 AM  

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