|SHOPWORN ANGEL (1938)|
Charles D. Brown
|"I sort of figure dying is like being in love. You canít quite imagine it until it gets right on top of you."|
|Time: 85 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
An almost too earnest Stewart attempts to capture the heart of Sullavan, a spoiled Broadway star, in this wartime, romantic triangle. He plays Bill Pettigrew, a soldier about to be sent off to battle who literally gets run over by Daisyís car. When his comrades in arms see him with her, he lets them assume sheís his girl. He gets Daisy to play along when they demand to meet his famous girlfriend. Of course, his sweet innocent, puppy love begins to make a dent in her hardened veneer and brings out jealous feelings in her longtime manager Sam (Pidgeon). Since Bill wonít be around for long, she indulges in his warmth and friendship, believing thereís no harm in giving him someone to dream about while on the front. Despite their love for each other, she begs Sam to allow Bill the fantasy of having a girl back home.
Itís a small sacrifice compared to the one Bill might be making. Her talent as an actress comes in handy during her last minute wedding to Bill. He goes to the front the happiest soldier in America, but we all know, since it wasnít true love, he wonít be coming back. In the end, Daisy not only winds up with the man she loves, but finds personal redemption as well. My description may sound over-the-top and in many ways it is. This film is war-time propaganda from the first frame to the last, spouting patriotism and self-sacrifice at every opportunity. And yet, because of the performances and much of the dialogue, itís not as unbearable as it should be. Sullavanís turnaround from Broadway brat to god-fearing American is actually a funny, sentimental and heartfelt piece of work.
Her character has never met a man like Bill. Heís simple, honest, decent, energetic and completely appealing. Who wouldnít want somebody telling you how wonderful and lovely you are every time you meet? Sure, itís hokey, but itís still nice to hear. Itís inevitable that she would come to care deeply for Bill he opens her mind to whole new way of thinking but I couldnít quite swallow her marrying him. If she didnít have such a clear connection with Pidgeonís character, her sacrificing her own future happiness would have been more believable. As it stands, itís a plot point that is clearly meant to motivate the viewer into dreaming up ways they themselves could contribute to the war effort. A little guilt goes a long way.
Those looking for the same charm and chemistry that Stewart and Sullavan share in their later effort THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER are bound to be disappointed with this piece. In this film, romance is used to serve a higher purpose patriotism not to generate warm and fuzzy feelings amongst itsí viewers. Sullavan renders an entrancing and multi-faceted performance, giving her character depth and subtlety despite the obvious pabulum. Pidgeon is the ever-gracious loser, showing that a man can wear his heart on his sleeve and still be masculine. Stewart makes what has to be one of the most hopeful and sincere characters Iíve ever seen into a compelling and likable human being. It took a lot of talent to turn his soldier-with-a-heart-of-gold into something more than a cartoon. This picture has itsí entertaining moments and though those who donít mind being force fed will probably enjoy it for the tragic romance it is. However, if you like your movies to be sharp and unsentimental than look elsewhere. Only die-hard romantics need apply.