Sunday, March 15, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Kathleen (1941) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Shirley Temple stars as a poor little rich girl in MGM's KATHLEEN (1941), which was recently released by the
Warner Archive.

Kathleen (Temple) is largely ignored by her wealthy widowed father (Herbert Marshall), and to make matters worse she's saddled with a very unsympathetic governess (Nella Walker). Kathleen finds some solace in her friendship with a kindly antique dealer (Felix Bressart), but she's lonely and given to making up stories about the nonexistent happy family life she wishes she had.

Matters go from bad to worse when Kathleen's father comes home with a new ladylove, Lorraine (Gail Patrick). Lorraine suggests that Dr. Foster (Lloyd Corrigan) check the troubled Kathleen; he pronounces Kathleen perfectly healthy but says the nasty governess has got to go. He suggests that a psychologist who's in between jobs, Dr. Martha Kent (Laraine Day), spend the summer as Kathleen's governess.

Kathleen's life immediately improves, as Martha is kind and respectful, and Martha also makes clear to Kathleen's father that he needs to mend his ways and make his daughter a priority. As it turns out, he just might fall in love with Martha, rather than Lorraine.

I first reviewed this film half a decade ago, and I enjoyed returning to it tonight. The film may not have the most original or scintillating script, but the cast is very enjoyable. I found it pleasant company, and I suspect those who also like the actors will feel the same, particularly if it's approached without high expectations.

Shirley was around 12 or 13 when she made KATHLEEN, a transitional film as she moved from child to teen actress. Temple does quite a good job as a troubled young lady. It's to her credit that Kathleen maintains sympathy despite being a bit of a brat, particularly early on.

Laraine Day is so charming and self-confident, it's hard to believe she was roughly 20 when this film was made. In fact, funnily enough just the year before she had played Herbert Marshall's daughter in FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), which makes her playing his love interest just a bit odd! Although there is a wide age gap, it nonetheless works fairly well, especially as Day seems mature for her years in this film. Still, someone perhaps just a bit younger -- say, George Brent or Walter Pidgeon -- might have been a better match for Day. That said, Marshall, possessed of one of the best voices in the film business, is fine as the clueless, distracted papa.

Patrick is quite entertaining as Lorraine; she's gooey, but she's not all bad -- after all, her referral of Dr. Foster proves to be sound, as does his recommendation of Martha. It's fun to note that Patrick teamed with Marshall in another film with a young prodigy, MAD ABOUT MUSIC (1938), which starred Deanna Durbin.

The film's one really awkward sequence is a musical number in which Temple is clearly dubbed for at least part of the number. (Somewhere I read a theory the high notes were dubbed by Kathryn Grayson, who started her MGM career around this time; it seems plausible.) The musical routine seems out of keeping with the rest of the film.

KATHLEEN was directed by Harold S. Bucquet, who had directed Day in the DR. KILDARE series. It was filmed by Sidney Wagner and has a score by Franz Waxman. The movie runs 88 minutes.

The Warner Archive DVD is a very good print. The disc includes the trailer.

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 at the WBShop.


Blogger Kristina said...

You know what, some Herbert Marshall fan I am, I haven't seen this one yet! And not only for him, this is a super cast all around.

12:36 PM  

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