13 March 2006 | dref4508
A Thanksgiving Tradition
Years ago, a local independent television station aired this film every Thanksgiving morning because the opening set-piece of the film revolves around the impoverished Wiggs' family's hopes for, and endeavors to create, a bountiful Thanksgiving. Forty-five years later, this darling film is still our holiday tradition. Despite the melodrama and mawkishness, "Mrs. Wiggs" has much to recommend it, not the least of which being one of the only two Hollywood endeavors of the legendary stage actress, Pauline Lord; fans of W. C. Fields and ZaSu Pitts will find much to cheer as well. The recreation of late-19th century poverty has been prettied up, but one is not asked to engage in a sociological critique of conditions, but to enter into a simplicity of motivation and action that captures and compels the imagination. The only weak part of the story is the inclusion of a nod to the temperance sensibilities of the era (of the original play and the '30s) in the scene between Mr. Bob, newspaper editor, and the town drunk. Kent Taylor looks decidedly uncomfortable in the scene, but it serves to introduce the character of the doctor with ties to the private hospital where Billy Wiggs ultimately dies. It is a placid little film with a surprising amount of activity for such circumscribed lives, which is the source of its charm. As in a Jane Austen novel, the minutiae of the everyday lives of ordinary people are endlessly fascinating. I would rate this film a ten because of my great affection for it, but that might be misleading to someone approaching it for different reasons, with different expectations. It is an artifact, yes; a piece of my personal history, certainly; but I suggest watching it with both mind and heart open wide, and judge for yourself.