28 January 2011 | Doylenf
Shopworn plot gets a lift from three charming leads...
There's no doubt that THE SHOPWORN ANGEL uses a plot that has been used countless times in movies and books over the years. It's the story of a selfish actress (MARGARET SULLAVAN) suddenly succumbing to the country boy charm of a soldier (JAMES STEWART) who is about to be sent overseas in WWII. Meanwhile, she has her agent WALTER PIDGEON, whom she depends upon for emotional support and love. Surely, there is nothing new about the bare outline of the plot.
But what works in the story's favor is the simplicity and charm of the three leads. Sullavan is more radiant than usual as a glamorous actress rather than the drab little wren she usually played and she plays her part in a refreshing manner that is almost able to overcome the idea that she should suddenly turn so noble. Despite this flaw in the characterization, it's a very winning performance that she gives.
Likewise, JAMES STEWART does wonders with a thinly devised role of the country bumpkin who falls impetuously in love with an actress, even to the point of asking her to marry him before he goes overseas. At this point, the plot's outcome becomes telegraphed because we know this is a Margaret Sullavan film and tearful romantic dramas have been her specialty. Thus, the ending becomes a forgone conclusion.
WALTER PIDGEON is her kindly suitor who has the wisdom to make the best of a situation he's not exactly comfortable with. He anchors the story with his sensitive performance as the man who can always be depended on to give the heroine the emotional support she needs. He's also got an abundant sense of humor that the story needs.
It's a trifle of a film, but beautifully acted and given a lift by the winsome performances of its three leads, moving at a brisk pace to the Hollywood ending. HATTIE McDANIEL is her usual delightful self as Miss Sullvan's down-to-earth maid.