The Enchanted Cottage (1945)

“The whole town WHISPERED about these two!” Robert Young appeared in dozens of films in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s but unfortunately I only remember the guy for his TV stints as “Jim Anderson” in Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby in Marcus Welby, M.D. Don’t get me wrong, those were great shows but it’s tough for me to suspend my imagination and accept him in a movie role such as his portrayal of “Oliver Bradford” in The Enchanted Cottage, an intriguing if overblown romantic fantasy based on a 1923 play by Arthur Wing Pinero and directed by John Cromwell. Although for me Young simply fills the role (it doesn’t help that he comes off as a rather pompous asshole at the beginning of the film), I found the film strangely fascinating from the opening scene. A blind, philosophical pianist named “Major John Hillgrove” (brilliantly portrayed by Herbert Marshall) starts narrating the tale of Bradford, a disfigured World War II veteran, and “Laura Pennington” (Dorothy McGuire), a homely maid who fall in love at a mystical New England seaside cottage historically rented to honeymooners (who traditionally scrawl their name on the window) and owned by the eccentric “Abigail Minnett” (Mildred Natwick). Although the couple initially gets married out of convenience, they soon discover a miraculous transformation happening in the cottage as the two outsiders actually end up falling in love. However, the arrival of “intruders” serves to destroy their illusions. Although often overly maudlin and melodramatic (Danny Peary in Guide for the Film Fanatic calls the it “one of Hollywood’s scmaltziest films”), The Enchanted Cottage boasts some excellent performances, as well as the strange, otherworldly atmosphere of the cottage and its surroundings. Bottom line: If you hate a sappy love story, avoid this thing like the plague! Marshall, who pretty much steals the show whenever he drops by the cottage, actually had lost a leg in World War I and used special contact lenses in his portrayal of the blind neighbor. Best known for collaborating with Orson Welles on the screenplay for Citizen Kane (1941), Herman J. Mankiewicz co-scripted the screenplay for The Enchanted Cottage with DeWitt Bodeen. McGuire would go on to get an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in 1947 for Gentleman’s Agreement (losing out to Loretta Young for The Farmer’s Daughter). The first film adaptation of The Enchanted Cottage was a silent version in 1924 that starred Richard Barthelmess and May McAvoy.

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