Each Thursday in May, Megan McGurk presents four classic melodramas from the 1940s.
Tickets are available through Eventbrite.
IN THIS OUR LIFE (1942)
Benjamin Franklin kept a checklist of 13 virtues that he monitored each day to reflect on his growth as an upstanding citizen. By contrast, Stanley Timberlake, played by Bette Davis, keeps a scorecard of vice. She runs off with her sister’s fiancé then drives him to commit suicide. She’s manipulative, greedy, reckless. For the coup de grâce, she pins a homicide on an innocent Black man. Olivia de Havilland, as Stanley’s unfortunate sister Roy, holds her own with a steady underplay. In one scene, Olivia takes her time putting on a hat, which is enough to tell the audience she’s no doormat. John Huston’s Southern Gothic melodrama reaches a steady boil.
MY REPUTATION (1946)
Before Douglas Sirk exposed narrow-minded views about widowhood in vivid Technicolor with All That Heaven Allows, Curtis Bernhardt painted a stark monochrome portrait of a community who expects a woman to put herself in mothballs once she loses her husband. Barbara Stanwyck’s character shares the same fate as many other women after the war. Should Jessica wear black, stay single, and avoid gossip? Or should she follow the advice of wing woman Eve Arden and see what happens with George Brent?
THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR (1947)
Gene Tierney takes her adorable daughter (Natalie Wood) and trusty housekeeper (Edna Best) to live in a cottage by the sea. Unlike past occupants, she refuses to leave when she learns it has a resident ghost, a former ship’s captain played by Rex Harrison. Instead of rattling chains or disturbing her sleep with a repertoire of sea shanties, the mariner allows the women to stay and even strikes a bargain: Gene can write his salty memoirs and make herself financially independent.
DAISY KENYON (1947)
Joan Crawford stars in a three-cornered romance, caught between a cynical married man (Dana Andrews), who has strung her along for years and a battle-scarred veteran (Henry Fonda), who rushes to commitment one minute and disappears the next. Otto Preminger fashions a postwar melodrama about hot-and-bothered men who upset the placid life of a successful career gal.