Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Enchanted Cottage (1945)

Movie quotes:
"You’ll always be beautiful to me."
- Oliver (to Laura)

At a glance:
This simple parable about inner beauty and love is told with elegance and grace

Our review (with spoilers):
Boy, did they know how to make movies back then! No complicated plots, no pyrotechnics, no messing with the timeline – just a very simple and elegant parable about how it’s what’s on the inside of a person that counts, and not one’s outward appearance.

Laura (Dorothy McGuire) is a sweet, ‘homely’ girl without a family who is taken in by Mrs. Minnett (Mildred Natwick), a widower who owns and occasionally rents an old cottage in the small town. The cottage is all that is left of a once large castle that was owned by a British nobleman. The castle burned down, leaving one wing intact. This quaint wing had, by tradition, been lent to newlyweds. Now, Mrs. Minnett is ready to rent again. A young couple, Oliver (Robert Young) and Beatrice (Hillary Brooke) are about to be married and plan to spend their honeymoon there. But when Oliver is called to war and is shot down and disfigured, their marriage plans end. Oliver returns to the cottage by himself to hide away, but he is healed by the kindness of Laura and the guidance of neighbor Major John Hillgrove (Herbert Marshall), another war veteran who lost his sight in action.

Oliver and Laura’s friendship leads to marriage. Their bond, originally more for convenience, increases in intensity and sincerity until the two newlyweds see an amazing physical transformation in themselves. Laura becomes as beautiful as a movie star, and Oliver’s disfiguration disappears. At the same time, they become happy, confident, and unburdened. Their fantasy is briefly shattered by Oliver’s overbearing mother, but with John’s help, the two lovers quickly realize that their true gift is how beautiful their love makes them feel to each other.

Movie making in this period was not only about entertainment; it often was a gentle way to give advice or teach important life lessons. That is the inner beauty of this film. It may not be perfect, but its heart is beautiful.

Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"John Cromwell’s moving romantic fable celebrates the transforming power of love but also exposes the disfiguring force of pity."
- J. R. Jones (Chicago Reader)

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