Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    As has been noted elsewhere, during the filming of "Desire Me," Ms. Garson and Richard Hart were swept into the sea by a wave along the rocky coast of California. She nearly lost her life, and as it was, sustained severe injuries that required several surgeries. All this for a misfire of a film.

    If not for the luminous presence of Greer Garson, this movie wouldn't be worth anyone's time. Considering the cast and director (George Cukor, who removed his name from the credits before the film's release) it's a wonder how it turned out so relatively poor. One would think the script's weaknesses should have been readily apparent. {SPOILERS AHEAD} The outline of the plot is fine: Paul (Robert Mitchum) is imprisoned during WW-II in a German POW camp. He spends his time telling a fellow prisoner, Jean (Hart), details about his life with his wife, Marise (Garson). Jean, whose life has been less than idyllic, becomes absorbed in these tales, and soon begins to think of these stories as HIS stories. When he and Paul attempt escape, Paul is shot, but Jean succeeds. He goes to Paul's home he has come to know so well and tries to claim Marise, who has been faithfully waiting for Paul for several years, as his own--in spite of the fact that he knows (or at least strongly suspects) that Paul is actually still alive. That outline could have been turned into a fine film--but the details were its undoing. Crucial to the story is the devotion Marise and Paul have toward each other.

    Unfortunately, this supposed great love is spoken of, but never dramatized. We get one brief flashback of their marriage ceremony. We don't see their love grow, never observe its intensity. Yet we are supposed to be invested in their relationship. Without that investment the final reconciliation fails to move us, and so the ending falls flat. An even bigger failing is how the relationship between Marise and Jean plays out. He immediately begins to pressure her to form a relationship with him--this in spite of the fact that until he tells her that he saw Paul die, Marise still believed him to be alive. No matter how lonely she might have been in the years she awaited Paul's return, she obviously would need some months to grieve her loss. To have someone pushing her into a relationship the very day she hears the news would be off putting to say the least--terrifying and enraging being even more likely reactions. Instead, we are to believe that Marise would experience only some relatively vague misgivings, and within about a week is sufficiently recovered to consider marrying this man (so much for this supposed great love between Paul and Marise).

    For this bit of absurdity to work, all one would need do is, first, provide more background (lots more background) to the relationship between Marise and Paul. Second, make Jean more crafty. Instead of fairly pouncing on Marise, have him offer his friendship and support. Have their relationship grow over the course of MONTHS, not days. These two changes alone might have turned the movie into a classic--IF Ms. Garson and Mr. Mitchum could have developed some chemistry between them. As it stands, they had none. With only 4 minutes of screen time together, how much could they be expected to generate? It's too bad. They were two such great stars . . . it would have been interesting to see them together. Still, for all its considerable faults, I give the film a 5 out of 10 on the basis of the great Greer Garson's presence, some great cinematography and an interesting, if poorly realized, premise.

    All in all, it's too bad Ms. Garson didn't elect to work in some other, more rewarding--and less painful--project.