Sunday, November 25, 2018

Girl Week 2018: Goodbye, My Fancy, a guest post by Joel


We've reached Day 7 of Girl Week 2018. It's been a great run so far. I say so far because there will be one more post on this site later today. Hopefully, one or two of you fine folks will have one, too. But let's talk about the present. Joel is back with another review. I'll let him have the floor.


Directed by Vincent Sherman.
1951. Not Rated, 107 minutes.
Cast:
Joan Crawford
Eve Arden
Robert Young
Frank Lovejoy
Janice Rule
Howard St. John
Lurene Tuttle
Morgan Farley

Joan Crawford plays Congresswoman Agatha Reed, authoritative and progressive minded, who takes a break from the cutthroat world of politics, she thinks, when she’s offered an honorary degree from her old alma mater, the all-female Good Hope College.

Having turned down similar awards from more prestigious schools without a backward glance her wisecracking secretary Woody (a scene stealing Eve Arden) is surprised when she jumps at this chance but Agatha has a secret. She was expelled from the school for staying out all night with a boy whose identity she never revealed and is anxious to return as a success. There’s another piece of the puzzle as well, the boy now a man-James Merrill (Robert Young) who she was with is the widowed president of Good Hope with a daughter (Janice Rule) who is ready to graduate. Upon arrival through misty eyes she finds that the torch she’s carried all these years (the poster tagline for the film was "No one holds a candle to Joan – when Joan is carrying the torch!") is reciprocated by Merrill. Despite the attentions of another old flame, Life photographer Matt Cole (Frank Lovejoy), who has followed her to the college on the pretext of covering the ceremony, all seems rosy.

But there are rumblings under the calm surface of Good Hope. Agatha finds that there is big trouble brewing between the powerful head of the board of trustees, a close minded blowhard by the name of Claude Griswold (Howard St. John) who is married to Agatha’s old roommate the seemingly addlepated Ellie (Lurene Tuttle), and the college’s most progressive professor Dr. Pitt (Morgan Farley) who encourages the young women to think for themselves and become aware of the world situation with Merrill smack dab in the middle.

Agatha is sure that Merrill will fall on the side of Dr. Pitt and enlightenment as she does and as the man she remembers would but Cole senses that the years of administrative bargaining have changed him. As the weekend progresses her faith is shaken to its foundations as it appears Cole might have the proper perspective. Things come to a head when the film Agatha has brought with her to show to the graduating class, a chronicle of her time as a reporter in war torn countries where freedom was destroyed, is withdrawn.


Full of excellent performances with Joan getting several chances to breathe a little fire including a great scene where she faces down someone who has suddenly become an opponent. Lacing into him and backing him into a corner to do the right thing she tells him when he says he can’t believe she’d actually do what she threatens “You see you learn all kinds of cute tricks in my work, the most important one being…never play fair unless you RESPECT the men you’re dealing with.” Again Eve Arden shows why she was one of the top supporting actresses of all time and Lurene Tuttle emerges as a stealth power player late in the picture. Frank Lovejoy, though miscast (the role has Jack Carson’s name all over it), does a fine job of the cynical, wry fly in the ointment photographer.

A star vehicle for Crawford (though a somewhat offbeat role for her, original star Rosalind Russell had to bow out at the last minute) at heart this is a bittersweet romance and meditation on nostalgia-the title is taken from the first verse of a Walt Whitman poem:

“Good-bye my Fancy!
Farewell dear mate, dear love!
I'm going away, I know not where,
Or to what fortune, or whether I may ever see you again,
So Good-bye my Fancy.”

But with the controversy at its core about freedom of thought and expression it has become far timelier than ever anticipated with the free speech hating orange imbecile cry babying his way through the White House that we are saddled with today. As well Agatha Reed, while caught up in wistful reverie during her visit, is above all else a fiercely intelligent forceful woman unafraid to stand up for her convictions and herself at a time when that was even more difficult than it is in present times.


Day 6's Girl Week Entries


6 comments:

  1. Fantastic as always Dell!

    I love all three films that I chose of course but this one energized me the most because as I gave it a rewatch before writing this up I was really struck by the parallels between the situation Joan is faced with and the present day assault on freedom of the press.

    Thanks for letting me participate and I'm looking forward to what you have up your sleeve for later today.

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  2. Another great post! Of course I Haven't seen this but I'm intrigued. It's going on my list.

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    1. Thank you.

      I'd seen it before several times (I love Crawford and really the whole cast) but it surprised me this time by how fresh and timely the main issue still feels. One thing, it's billed as a comedy but while it has humorous bits it's a drama revolving around both a romance and social issues.

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  3. My apologies Joel for not being here sooner. I have been up and down in looking at all the blogs even the ones I love. I have not seen this film but what a great pick and how could one not pick the crazy ass Joan Crawford:) I love it that Eve Arden is in this film as well because she is one of my favourite actresses and she was the best in another film with Crawford, “Mildred Fierce, um, I mean Pierce. This is an excellent review and one film that shows how strong women were even all those decades ago.

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    1. Thanks Birgit! I love Eve Arden too!! She's one of the actresses whose filmography I'm attempting to complete. It's a tough one since she freelanced a great deal and several of her movies are incredibly obscure...but every once in a while I'll get lucky. A few weeks ago I tracked down Patrick the Great where she costarred with a 19 year old Donald O'Connor. Now if I could just find Curtain Call at Cactus Creek!!

      Anyway Joan and she share a similar dynamic to the one in Mildred Pierce, a fantastic film, but it's also different since Joan's Agatha in this is a much more forceful person. They show this on occasion on TCM so if you have that keep an eye. It's also on DVD.

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