|PEOPLE WILL TALK (1951)|
|"Professor Elwell, you are the only man I know who can say 'malignant' the way other people say 'Bingo!'"|
|Time: 110 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
One of Grant's lesser known films for a good reason. While he has great chemistry with Crain (despite the 20-year age gap), the road to romance is so convoluted and sudden it's never quite believable. Pile on a ludicrous sub-plot that's supposed to create mystery about his character and suspense about his future but turns into much ado about nothing and you've got an uneven piece of fluff that subsists only due to the actors' charm and the audience's good will. Grant plays Dr. Noah Praetorius, a respected and popular physician/professor whose reputation is questioned by a jealous colleague, Professor Ewell (Cronyn), who believes his warmhearted methods stem from a sinister secret. Ewell's attempts to discredit Praetorius focus on his relationship with Shunderson (Currie), a quiet, kind-hearted man who never seems to leave Noah's side. There's a story there that Ewell is sure will rid his life of his rival once and for all. One can't heal people with kindness and hope. Praetorius is a quake and he's going to prove it.
For his part, Dr. Praetorius is unaware of the storm brewing behind his back. His focus is on his patients. In particular, Miss Deborah Higgins (Crain), a young woman who finds herself pregnant and alone. Like most decent girls, she got swept up in the moment and is now in quite a fix. With no one to help her her father just won't understand she turns to desperate measures to put an end to the problem for good. She's unsuccessful and winds up under the watchful guidance of Dr. Praetorius, which only makes matters worse. Though they only just met, she's in love with him (it is Cary Grant after all) and horrified at what he must think of her. Scared she might try to hurt herself again, Dr. Praetorius tells her a little white lie that's supposed to make her feel better for the moment, but will become fairly obvious in a few months. When she disappears in the night, he pulls out all the stops to find her and talk to her father, who he's sure will forgive her indiscretion and welcome the news of a grandchild.
He, of course, goes in search of her, with his trusty sidekick Shunderson in tow. After all, he has a little information she deserves to know. It doesn't take much time with her family to understand how right she was. Her father (Blackmer) is a loving and kind man, but does not have the means to support even himself, much less his daughter. They survive by the good graces of her uncle (Wright), an old-fashioned and bitter old man, who would throw her out on her ear if he knew her condition. So, the only solution to their problem is for them to get married right away. Yes, it happens just like that. I would have been completely horrified if it weren't for the clever writing and good acting that manuveurs them to this point. Both Crain and Grant make you believe that despite the circumstances that brought them together, their feelings of love are true. She may be young, but this is no schoolgirl crush. Crain's intelligence and poise make this role so much more than the typical damsel in distress rescued by her knight in shining armor. In this case, from the life of a fallen woman.
Their performances are deep and honest, making this moralistic/life-affirming tale a pill that's fairly easy to swallow. Unfortunately, wedded bliss turns quickly to turmoil when Deborah finds out she's still in the family way, questioning Noah's reasons for marrying her. She doesn't get much time to ponder whether his intentions were strictly noble or actual love. Ewell has found the evidence he was so eagerly seeking and Noah must now face the board to refute his colleague's claim that he's a fraud. All his grandiose talk about how feeding the soul can save more lives than practical medicine is going to sink his ship. Or is it? If only the truth were as exciting as the build up leads one to believe. There's no way that Grant is going to play a less than honorable character, at least not in a film like this. His "trial" before the board is mostly a ploy by the filmmakers to impart their ideas about how cold and clinical the medical community was becoming, turning to science and away from kindness and personal contact. A point the audience then as well as now, can probably well relate to. While the arguments are eloquently drawn, they lack tension because we know who's going to lose.
Cronyn makes the most of his screen time as the petty Ewell, giving an enjoyable performance despite the lack of bite to his cause. The truth about Shunderson provides an entertaining tale about unconditional friendship and the will of the human spirit, but fails to live up to the mystery surrounding it. Though Currie's performance will make you wish you had a friend as stalwart and true. While the film has some enjoyable comic and romantic moments and is intelligently written, the two divergent storylines ruin the pleasure. Neither was fully developed to my liking, short-changing both the suspense and the romance. The smart, witty dialogue, honest emotions and great performances by all involved are what make this film enjoyable and almost memorable. Grant fans should be satisfied. He's just as witty, sweet and irresistible, though a little more controlled and thoughtful. For those who prefer a more unusual take on romance.