And so are the gossipy men in the small town where a lady of scandal who returns to town an allegedly great actress just in time for her daughter's stage debut. Barbara Stanwyck, in her busiest screen year as a film star, is glorious and quite the star. Her character, a small town girl from the wrong side of the tracks who married onto the right side yet never fit in, left to pursue an acting career and with some success ended up in burlesque. Scandal involving a secret old beau on the side has tongues wagging, including an elderly train station master who starts tongues wagging. Mixed reactions from her estranged family also adds to the drama.
Set in small town U.S.A. in the early 1900's, this has all the makings of a smart little drama of the American family which isn't quite Andy Hardy's. Richard Carlson is her torn ex-husband who has gone on with his life with drama teacher Maureen O'Sullivan, while Lyle Bettger is the mysterious former flame whose past with Stanwyck seems to be unknown to all but a few. Of the two daughters, oldest Marcia Henderson is totally resentful while younger Lori Nelson has worshiped her from afar. Youngest child Billy Gray is at that vulnerable age where having his mother back seems to be a dream cone true, but with Stanwyck and Bettger's past a secret except to the audience, more obvious questions are raised.
Another delight is lovable German actress Lotte Stein as the housekeeper who was in on Nelson coming back. Richard Long, the oldest son of Ma and Oa Kettle, joins younger Kettle sister Nelson, here playing stuffy Henderson's boyfriend who is entranced with Stanwyck to Henderson's annoyance. As produced by tearjerker king Ross Hunter, this is quite a likable soap opera style melodrama, not quite as sappy as his big color movies, yet nicely detailed and extremely engrossing. The conflicts seem real and the conclusion bittersweet. This reaffirms why Stanwyck remains my favorite star of Hollywood's golden age.
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