Wednesday, May 24, 2017

OVP: Always in My Heart (1942)

Film: Always in My Heart (1942)
Stars: Kay Francis, Walter Huston, Gloria Warren, Patti Hale, Frankie Thomas, Una O'Connor
Director: Jo Graham
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Original Song-"Always in My Heart")
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars

I am sure I've told this story before, but it probably bares repeating occasionally considering it's become the heart of this blog, that is the story of why I initially restarted Many Rantings of John nearly five years ago, specifically the Oscar Viewing Project.  Part of me at the time wanted to simply see if I could pull off writing 1500 words a day, seeing if I had the skills as a writer to push myself into sitting in front of a keyboard long enough to actually accomplish something.  The second thing, though was that I wanted to be able to have a record of movies that I had seen.  I was going through a list of Best Actress contenders, and I realized upon looking at one of the films that I had virtually no memory of seeing the film.  This was (and is) relatively uncommon as if I'm known for anything it is that I can recall most things, but even upon reading a synopsis of the movie I couldn't recall anything about it, other than that I had written "2 stars" next to the nominee in my tracking grid.  As a result of that, I decided then and there that I would be writing a review of every Oscar-nominated film I saw from then on-out, so that when the time came for me to honor the goal of the OVP (and pick a winner) I would be able to rank a 2-star winner next to another without too much difficulty.

(Spoilers Ahead) As you might be able to tell, this isn't a flattering way to introduce a review, but suffice it to say Always in My Heart is the sort of film that I was thinking of when I wanted a "backlog" of movies I could not remember seeing.  The film centers around a woman named Victoria (Francis) who is in love with two men: her husband Mac (Huston), who is in jail for a crime that he didn't commit and a wealthy paramour named Philip (Sidney Blackmer), who is trying to woo the woman he assumes to be a stately widow.  The film progresses with Mac, after telling his wife that she should marry him (everyone assumes that Mac is dead, including his children), getting a pardon and coming out of jail, but because he can provide nothing but love (and a song) while Philip can give his two grown children education and status, he stays "dead."  However, a chance encounter with his daughter (Warren), who doesn't recognize him, eventually leads to the ruse being discovered and the family being reunited.

The film is at best a curiosity.  It's strange to see Gloria Warren, an actress almost completely forgotten by Hollywood, headlining a picture like this, particularly in a role that you'd expect would be portrayed by Deanna Durbin.  One wonders if Warner Brothers was trying to duplicate Universal's success with Durbin by signing Warren, but this was just one of five films she ever made, and she largely disappeared from the silver screen afterwards so it was obviously not an investment they enjoyed.  I will admit I didn't like her performance-she was too earnest, her soprano too pronounced (it feels like you're getting whiplash from the sound man), and it's hard to tell at times whether she's supposed to be twenty or twelve.  Huston and Francis, are better, but never really rising above serviceable.  Both of them had long careers at this point (as opposed to Warren), and so they could find ways to at least make relatively bland dreck at least somewhat watchable.  But both have also been much, much better.

The film would be forgotten today were it not for its random Oscar nomination for Best Song.  The song itself is fine, if a bit standard and feels like the dusty sort of tune you can find in the back of a piano bench.  Even in the film it feels old, perhaps because it is most memorably sung by Huston (who always looked older than he was), and other than the title hook, you'd be hard-pressed to remember any of the lyrics ten minutes after you watch it.  All-in-all, the only credit I can really give it is that it is the centerpiece of the movie, causing most of the action.  But that nothing really happens around it is the film's biggest indictment.

Those are my thoughts-how about yours?  Anyone out there actually have seen Always in My Heart (like I said, it's obscure unless you're an ardent fan of Francis or Huston)?  If not, anyone want to weigh in on Gloria Warren, whom I had never heard of before this picture?  Share below!

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