Monday, October 05, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Close to My Heart (1951)

I probably should have been working tonight, as many deadlines loom, but I decided I was approaching burnout and would be more productive tomorrow if I relaxed and watched a movie instead...I'm glad I did. Tonight's movie was CLOSE TO MY HEART (1951), a solid adoption soaper with a trio of terrific actors in Gene Tierney, Ray Milland, and Fay Bainter. I enjoyed it very much.

Midge and Brad (Tierney and Milland) have been married for four years when they receive definitive word that Midge will be unable to have a child. Although they adopt an adorable puppy to liven up the house, Midge and Brad long to fill their empty nursery with a child.

Midge learns of a foundling who might be available for adoption sooner than the two years it would take to receive a baby through an agency. She becomes very attached to little Danny, visiting him frequently at his foster mother's home, and is overjoyed when she and Brad are able to take Danny home and begin the adoption process. However, Brad, a newspaper columnist, cannot resist investigating Danny's background; he learns some disturbing news which may interfere with the completion of Danny's adoption.

The film may be soap opera, but it's very well done, with sympathetic performances by the leads. If you like Milland and Tierney, you'll doubtless like the movie, simple as that. Milland is particularly good playing the more conflicted prospective father experiencing myriad emotions before he allows himself to completely commit to his new son.

Bainter's character verges on the unlikeable near the end of the film, as she perhaps unfairly rushes to judgment about Milland's ability to be a good parent, but Bainter is always a compelling actress even if I didn't agree with all of her character's actions.

Eddie Marr, who plays a critical role as a taxi driver with information on Danny's background, was a regular on Lux Radio Theater, which was hosted for many years by the director of CLOSE TO MY HEART, William Keighley. The cast also includes Mary Beth Hughes, Howard St. John, Ann Morrison, and James Seay.

The movie was shot in black and white and runs 90 minutes. It has good production values, including interesting sets; a score by Max Steiner; and cinematography by Robert Burks, who worked on some of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films. A few scenes appear to have been shot in the Southern California area. Tierney's wardrobe was supervised by her then husband, Oleg Cassini.

CLOSE TO MY HEART is one of the first couple hundred releases from the Warner Archive and is the second Archive DVD I've watched to date. Initially the print was noticeably speckled and the sound seemed very slightly muffled. However, after the first few minutes the print seemed to settle down and looked and sounded quite good. The DVD only contained the movie and did not include the trailer.

Since it's a Warner Bros. title, this film is likely to turn up on Turner Classic Movies in the future. It does not appear to have had a VHS release.

This would make a good double bill with another adoption tale, Cary Grant and Irene Dunne's classic PENNY SERENADE (1941). While watching Ray Milland's impassioned speech near the end of CLOSE TO MY HEART, I couldn't help but think back to a similar scene of Grant's in PENNY SERENADE nearly a decade previously.

CLOSE TO MY HEART is recommended as a somewhat predictable but very polished drama.


Blogger Carrie said...

Are you buying the archive DVDs or renting? I'd be nice to 'tyr before you buy!'

2:52 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

This is one I bought...there was a special offer earlier this year to get three titles for a discounted price so I ordered three films I especially wanted to see.

I've been following reviews from people like Barrie Maxwell and Glenn Erickson. It sounds like some prints are very good but in many cases, if I already have the movie recorded from TCM, that's as good as the print gets and there's not a good reason to get an Archive copy.

Best wishes,

3:21 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for pointing out that this movie is now available on DVD. I have been trying to get a hold of a copy for years. My brother is the "other baby" with the big blond curls in the last scene of the movie.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

What a wonderful story, Bruce! So glad I could help. Thanks for sharing that interesting info.

Best wishes,

2:28 PM  

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