MY FOOLISH HEART
(director: Mark Robson; screenwriter: Julius and Philip Epstein/adapted from the New Yorker short story “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” by J. D. Salinger; cinematographer: Lee Garmes; editor: Daniel Mandell; music: Victor Young; cast: Dana Andrews (Walt Dreiser), Susan Hayward (Eloise Winters), Kent Smith (Lew Wengler), Lois Wheeler (Mary Jane), Jessie Royce Landis (Martha Winters), Robert Keith (Henry Winters), Gigi Perreau (Ramona), Karin Booth (Miriam Ball), Martha Mears (Night Club Singer), Philip Pine (Sgt. Lucey), Edna Holland (Dean Whiting); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel Goldwyn; RKO; 1949)
“Salinger was so dismayed at what Hollywood did to his story, that it was the first and last time that they got their hands on one of his stories.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Mark Robson (“The Ghost Ship”/”The Seventh Victim”/”Bedlam”) directs in a workmanlike way this sentimental, talky, soap opera woman’s pic that’s written by the Epstein brothers, Julius and Philip, who wrote Casablanca. It’s based on a short story called“Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” by J. D. Salinger, which appeared in the New Yorker.The reclusive Salinger was so dismayed at what Hollywood did to his story, that it was the first and last time that they got their hands on one of his stories. The movie took its title from the hit song, whose music was by Victor Young and lyrics by Ned Washington. Susan Hayward is in the lead role, playing a superficial vulnerable coed who blossoms into a sour-puss cynical suburbanite. It’s a broad role that’s well-within Ms. Hayworth’s limited range of acting, and it’s no surprise that she hits all the slow pitches. The surprise is that it’s not enough to save the film from being so foolish.
The pic opens in 1949 whenMary Jane (Lois Wheeler) visits the self-absorbed Eloise WintersWengler(Susan Hayward), her former college roommate she lost contact with, in her Connecticut suburban estate. The ladies have not spoken for seven years, when Eloise stole Mary Jane’s boyfriend Lew Wengler (Kent Smith) and married him during wartime. The couple are not happy even though Lew is a successful businessman and they live in material comfort. They have a seven year old daughter named Ramona (Gigi Perreau), who we learn is not the biological daughter of Lew but the child from Eloise’s former lover, NYC playboy Walt Dreiser (Dana Andrews). Now that Lew has asked for a divorce, the nasty Eloise threatens to tell him that the child is not his.
In flashback, we return to Woodley College, in New York, in 1941, where the nice girl from Boise, Eloise, fell madly in love with Walt after meeting him at a party and while dating Lew. When caught by the dean (Edna Holland) after hours kissing Walt goodnight in the dorm elevator, Eloise is expelled. Dad and mom (Robert Keith & Jessie Royce Landis) come to take her back to Boise by train, but Eloise talks dad into letting her live in the city and work in a department store to see if she can marry the elusive Walt. But he gets drafted and while on leave knocks her up. Before Eloise can tell Walt the good news, he is killed in a plane crash overseas. On the rebound, Eloise decides she no longer wants to be a nice girl and even though she doesn’t love Lew, she traps him in a loveless marriage. Lew is a soon to be army officer after Pearl Harbor, and when he returns from the war they live unhappily ever after until their upcoming divorce.
I found it hard to get into this sappy Hollywood melodrama and even harder to find it believable (never believing Susan was ever a nice girl).
REVIEWED ON 9/17/2011 GRADE: C+