Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Girls' Dormitory (1936)

GIRLS' DORMITORY has a very short runtime of just 66 minutes, which made it a perfect film to split over the last couple evenings and watch at the end of long, busy days without much time left for relaxing with a movie.

GIRLS' DORMITORY is an entertaining film about a posh European school for teenage girls, circa 1936. Student Marie (Simone Simon, in her American debut) and teacher Anna (always-wonderful Ruth Chatterton) are each secretly in love with the school's director, Herr Dominick (Herbert Marshall). Scandal ensues when an innocent letter dreamy Marie wrote to her secret -- unnamed -- love is found in a wastebasket by a vindictive teacher.

Will Marie be allowed to graduate? And will the school director realize he loves Marie or Anna?

Most of the film is very enjoyable, although a scene where a creepy male teacher interrogates Marie goes on too long and causes the viewer to lose respect for Herr Dominick -- why does he allow the bullying, inappropriate interrogation, and more to the point, why is the teacher on the staff in the first place? Indeed, one also wonders why Constance Collier's Professor Wimmer has a job at the school...

I was quite surprised with the direction the story took in the last 20 minutes or so; it ended completely differently from what I expected. I almost feel like I need to rewatch it now just to absorb it with my adjusted expectations.

The cast all do a fine job. I didn't care for Simon much at the outset, as her posing and heavily accented English reminded me of Luise Rainer's wide-eyed one-note performance in DRAMATIC SCHOOL (1938). However, Simon's performance becomes more interesting as the film progresses and I ultimately enjoyed her in the role. She does a good job of conveying Marie's emergence from schoolgirl to a young woman in love.

The film is part of the Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection, although Tyrone Power Jr., as he is billed, only shows up in the last few minutes. Power plays Marie's cousin, who attends her graduation and later takes her out to dinner. He lights up the screen, and it's easy to see why 20th Century-Fox received such positive feedback about their new young actor.

GIRLS' DORMITORY was directed by Irving Cummings.

The supporting cast includes J. Edward Bromberg, Dixie Dunbar, and John Qualen. June Storey, who would play Power's sister-in-law Gretchen in IN OLD CHICAGO in 1938, plays one of Marie's loyal friends.

Reviews of other films in this boxed DVD set: LOVE IS NEWS (1937), SECOND HONEYMOON (1937), DAY-TIME WIFE (1939), THAT WONDERFUL URGE (1948), THE LUCK OF THE IRISH (1948), and I'LL NEVER FORGET YOU (1951).


Blogger Classic Maiden said...

I remember when I watched it I didn't really have any high expectations (I bought the Ty box set in which, as you mentioned, it is included), but I found myself enjoying it quite a lot.

What impressed me, more than anything, was the cast. Especially having seen Simone Simon in the French film, The Human Beast (1938), it was interesting to see her in another film and then even in an English spoken film. Perfectly cast film, really. I always enjoy Herbert Marshall and Ruth Chatterton :)

Best wishes,

5:40 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree, Sebina, Marshall and Chatterton are always great! :)

Best wishes,

9:13 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

I requested the box set from the library back when you reviewed the Irish movie. It came in today and I only have one week to watch all these great movies and get ready for my trip to WDW! If I don't get to all of them this time around, I'll request it again. They have a wait list on it :)

6:43 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Good luck with your viewing and packing, Irene! I hope you enjoy this set as much as I have -- I've only got three films left to go.

My dad has been watching the movies over the last few days and enjoying them too -- they are fun films. Glad it was available to you at your library.

Best wishes,

6:50 PM  

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