14 May 2019 | HotToastyRag
Fantastic May-December drama
Since I watched Herbert Marshall's movies from later in his career first, I had no idea he was once a dashing leading man. Even when I watched him in The Painted Veil and Blonde Venus, he was portrayed as a cuckold husband, so I still didn't witness his leading man status. Why didn't I watch Girls' Dormitory first? I would have loved him!
Girls' Dormitory sounds like a comedy from the music in the opening credits, but once the plot starts, it's clearly a serious drama. Herbert Marshall stars as the director of a girls' school in Germany, and he has a close friendship with one of the teachers, Ruth Chatterton. Everyone, including the school's groundskeeper John Qualen, knows Ruth has romantic feelings for Herbie, but he has no idea. Ruth's favorite student, Simone Simon has a crush on Herbie, and when she writes him a love letter, everything starts to spiral out of control. Simone has the good sense to throw away the letter, but a strict teacher, Constance Collier, digs through the garbage and finds it. Then, with another strict teacher, J. Edward Bromberg, they take Simone to task and try to expel her two days before graduation. Combined with the love triangle that's very engaging, the harsh reprimand of an innocent student is a very interesting storyline. The screenplay is smart and realistic, showing that some people are mean and want to punish regardless of consequence.
If you blink, you'll miss "Tyrone Power Jr." in one of his first movies, so if you're only watching this movie for him, pick something else. This is Herbie's show, and he's every bit the dashing leading man he was in the 1930s. He's handsome, charming, sensitive, responsible, and romantic. I'm partial to May-December stories, so while I started out liking the movie, the quality of the film itself made me enjoy all of it. Simone's accent is very thick, and at times it's hard to understand her, but since this is her first American movie, it's understandable to cut her a little slack. Ruth Chatterton gives an understated performance, and you'd never believe she'd be capable of losing her temper in the same year's Dodsworth. Girls' Dormitory is a really great movie, with tension galore and a very appealing leading man. Try it out with your friends from school!