17 January 2014 | jjnxn-1
Margaret shines brightest
High class soap opera with the MGM sheen and a cast of great actors. Joan's a respectable if restless performer who marries Melvyn Douglas on a whim and goes back to his family home where trouble awaits and that's when the fun begins.
The story of family animosity and dangerous attraction isn't anything new but as presented here by these super professionals and director Borzage they find ways to make it compelling.
Joan is unquestionably the star of this enterprise and she holds her own with the strong cast that surrounds her while looking glamorous and suffering nobly.
Fay Bainter turns her usual warm and understanding persona on its ear as a harridan twisted by jealousy and bitterness. Robert Young turns in good work as a bit of a weasel and Melvyn Douglas although Joan titular co-star really doesn't have much to do and is absent from a good deal of the film but he does what is required of him with his usual skill. The marvelous Hattie McDaniel has a tiny role as Joan's maid with the improbable name of Belvedere and injects a small dose of levity into the heavy going dramatics.
Good though they may be and Joan is the queen of this little opus they are all outshone by one of their fellow actors. Margaret Sullavan as Young wife gives a performance of such quiet beauty she wipes anyone else off the screen whenever she's on it. An actress of great skill and subtle intensity she makes her Judy a character that seems far more real and relatable than anybody else on screen. Her output was small, only 16 films in total, but she always had a vivid and alive presence on screen.
If you enjoy dramas with an adult, if a tad melodramatic, outlook enacted by talented performers this is for you.