The films of the 30's and 40's are known today as those of "the Golden Age," and in that age, MGM stood at the forefront of creating classic entertainment. Every now and again, however, even MGM came a cropper, and with IF WINTER COMES they hit close to the bottom.
I only watched this film on TCM because a friend of mine has a framed one sheet of it in his home, a sheet he puts up on December 21st of every year and takes down the following March 21st. Nice idea, nice poster. But what a dud of a film.
Walter Pidgeon plays a man of principle married, on the rebound, to a shrew of a wife (Angela Lansbury). He has been thrown over for no seemingly good reason by the love of his life, Deborah Kerr. When the film begins Kerr reappears to say that she made a mistake and will always love Pidgeon. Ditto from Pidgeon. But the two ex-lovers are far too noble to leave their respective spouses, so they continue as "friends" as WW2 hits the British Isles. Pidgeon's bosses hate his liberal, humanistic attitude and are constantly looking for a way to get rid of him. Enter Janet Leigh, a young girl who lives with her heartless, toe-the-line, Bible reading father, (Rhys Williams). When she gets pregnant and tossed out by her Dad it is Pidgeon (of course!) who takes her in prompting Lansbury to file for divorce citing adultery. From there on it is one rung after another on the road to complete collapse for Pidgeon.
Handled in a better way this might have been a good soaper, but the screenplay is sloppy, the editing choppy, the direction almost non-existent and the acting by Pidgeon, Lansbury and Kerr all stiff as a board. (Even wonderful Mae Witty, in a minuscule role, chews a bit of scenery before she is dispatched.) The best acting award, at least from where I was sitting, goes to young Janet Leigh who brought a quiet dignity and warmth to her role.
Mean spirited to an astonishing degree and clunky at almost every level, I have to wonder what MGM was thinking when they chose to make the film in the first place.
After seeing IF WINTER COMES I intend to find a new one sheet for my friend, maybe WINTER MEETING or WHITE Christmas, anything, in fact other than this nightmare from MGM, the dream factory.