Today is the fourth Sunday of 2019, so it is time for the next article in PEPS’s 52 Code Films series. This will be the last article in the series which we publish this month. As part of this new series, I committed to watching one film from the American Breen Era (1934-1954) which is new to me every week. Then, at the end of each week, I write an article about the film. In each of these articles, I summarize the film’s basic plot before mentioning the picture’s cast, production notes, Code classification, my opinions, and a final recommendation. In addition, I mention any other new Code films which I watched during the week. This is the last of such articles for January!
This week’s film topic is Something in the Wind from 1947. I watched it on Tuesday. It is included in the Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack, which we bought several months ago after hearing about the operatic darling of the silver screen from the 1930s. We have enjoyed the movies of Joe Pasternak’s prodigious soprano starlets Kathryn Grayson and Jane Powell for years, but we are just beginning to discover Mr. Pasternak’s first musical protégé, the Canadian-born actress who made her film debut in 1936. My final film selection for January is the fourth film with Deanna Durbin which we have seen.
A young female disc jockey has a daily program on the radio, during which she plays records and sings. She is a classical soprano who is hoping for her big chance. One day after work, the young lady is met by the grandson of a deceased millionaire. The young man coldly tells her that, since his grandfather has died, he does not intend to continue issuing her the monthly checks which she has been receiving. He wants to make a settlement with her so that she will have no further claims on the estate. Outraged, she is very rude to him. He thinks that she is just trying to deny the accusations, but she leaves so that she won’t have to talk to him anymore. When she gets home and tells her maiden aunt what happened, she realizes that there was a misunderstanding because she and her aunt have the same name. Years ago, her aunt was in love with the grandfather, but the family discouraged him from marrying a woman out of his class. Although he married a society woman, he continued giving his former sweetheart checks. The niece is disgusted to learn of this shabby consolation. The wealthy family is very disturbed to learn that the young woman has not agreed to a settlement. They send the grandson and his jovial second cousin to bring her to their house so that they can make a deal, using any necessary means. The young men literally kidnap the poor girl and bring her to the house. Once there, she denies the accusations to the gossip-spreading uncle, harsh grandmother, second cousin, and grandson. However, soon realizing that her protestations are useless, she sees a way to get even with the snobs; she decides to play the role of the loose woman they think she is and says that she will settle for one million dollars for herself and her (fictional) baby. Only the happy-go-lucky second cousin sees through her farce, since he knows that the checks have been issued for over twenty years, much longer than she could have known the grandfather. After she tells him the truth, he agrees to assist her scheme in hopes that the grandson’s fiancée will break their engagement. The penniless second cousin is convinced that the wealthy grandson doesn’t love his betrothed, whom he loves himself. The mistaken girl decides to stay and continue the deception while the settlement papers are drawn up, wreaking havoc every minute. However, she may realize that she doesn’t hate the grandson as much as she thought she did.
The young disc jockey is Mary Collins, played by Deanna Durbin. The wealthy grandson is Donald Read, played by John Dall. The second cousin is Charlie Read, played by Donald O’Connor. The grandmother is Grandma Read, played by Margaret Wycherly. The gossiping uncle is Uncle Chester Read, played by Charles Winninger. The young lady’s aunt is also Mary Collins, played by Jean Adair. The grandson’s fiancée is Clarissa Prentice, played by Helena Carter.
This film was directed by Irving Pichel. It was produced by Joseph Sistrom. It was released by Universal Pictures. The screenplay was written by Harry Kurnitz and William Bowers. The story was by Fritz Rotter and Charles O’Neal. The film’s music consisted of six original songs written by Johnny Green and Leo Robin. In addition, Deanna Durbin sings an excerpt from Il Trovatore by Giuseppi Verdi with an operatic tenor, Jan Peerce, who is playing a character role.
This movie is a fair Code film. For the most part, it is a wholesome, decent movie. However, the scenario involving Mary Collins and the deceased Mr. Read is rather suggestive. It is true that the audience knows from the beginning that Mary did not even know the old gentleman and that her aunt had a wholesome relationship with him when she knew him years ago. However, a large part of the film revolves around the situation which the family thinks existed. When Mary decides to play along with the Reads’ perception of her, some questionable implications ensue. Most of the dialogue is sufficiently vague, but Mary’s lies about having a baby, which she implies is the illegitimate child of the deceased Grandfather Read, are highly suggestive and quite unnecessary. Also, some other elements of her “loose woman” act include lines and behavior which are a little too risqué. These things are very small and subtle. They aren’t large enough to detract from the general feeling of Code-compliance in the film. However, they make the film’s Code classification fair instead of good.
This is a generally charming film. It features memorable and amusing performances by Deanna Durbin and Donald O’Connor. I think the story is a little shallow but a good vehicle for humor. I don’t think this is the best display of Deanna Durbin’s talent. This is definitely my least favorite of the four films I have seen with her. I think she is better in her more cheerful roles, which were in films produced by Joe Pasternak. By the time this 1947 film was made, she was no longer working with Joe Pasternak. Also, I think that Donald O’Connor’s talent wasn’t used to its full potential. I thought that he would be paired with Deanna Durbin, since they both were youthful stars. I was surprised to see him play second fiddle to an actor who appeared in very few films, John Dall. One of the best numbers is Donald O’Connor’s song and dance routine, “I Love a Mystery,” in which he sings, dances, and does the sort of amazing stunts for which he won such great acclaim in “Make ‘Em Laugh” from Singin’ in the Rain. I thought it was a shame that he didn’t get more opportunity to shine in this film and to really interact with Deanna. I also thought that Miss Durbin’s talent was underused in this picture. She didn’t get many opportunities to show her operatic vocalizing. “The Turntable Song” was quite memorable and rather popular after the film was released; I found it to be entertaining and well-suited to her voice. However, the other four original songs she sang were relatively unremarkable and rather average. To me, the musical highlight was the duet from Il Trovatore which Mary Collins sings with a real operatic tenor playing a policeman. It is a musical delight as well as a humorous and delightful scene, reminiscent of scenes in Joe Pasternak productions. I found the movie to be very entertaining on the whole. It is light, whimsical, and very funny. It is generally charming. There are just those few little things which make it less than a good Code film. One must be very particular to be bothered by them. However, as with most Code films which are less than completely good in terms of Code-compliance, the story weaknesses seem to coincide with the Code violations.
I recommend this film to fans of musicals and comedies. Those who like Deanna Durbin and Donald O’Connor will enjoy seeing them in this movie. I think that the acting is very good in this film. It is interesting to see Deanna Durbin in a more mature role than many of those which she played, since this was one of her last films. She is also surprisingly smooth in screwball comedy. The songs are pretty and enjoyable in their places. This movie is only an hour and a half long, and it is never dull during that time. I suggest it as a good film for all classic film lovers to see. I encourage you to notice the Code violations which I mentioned. One thing to always remember about Breen Era films and their classification is that even non-Code films would almost certainly be G-rated films under the Classification and Rating Administration. That shows how wonderful good and perfect Code films are!
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This week, I only watched this one new Code film.
If you are interested in a reasonable collection with six Code films starring Deanna Durbin, click the above image to buy the Deanna Durbin Sweetheart Pack on DVD at Amazon and support PEPS through the Amazon Affiliate program!
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