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CHANGE OF HEART (Fox, 1934), directed by John G. Blystone, reunites the ever popular love team of Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell for the 12th and final time. Their union, which began with the silent romance story of SEVENTH HEAVEN (1927), expanded successfully for its time through the sound era in an attempt to recapture the magic of their initial pairing. Throughout those seven years and ten additional romancers (one as guest stars in an early musical), their efforts ranged from good to satisfactory, with popularity solely due to the loyalty of their audiences. With each passing year, tastes change in favor for better constructed stories and newcomers on the rise. By 1934, Gaynor and Farrell were on the wane, while the supporting players of James Dunn and Ginger Rogers have juicer roles, especially Rogers, cast against type, as the selfish girl who really doesn't know what she wants in life, thus, jeopardizing her friendship to get what she wants at all cost.
The story linked with CHANGE OF HEART has nothing to do with medical students performing heart transplants, but the focus on two couples just graduating from a California college and leaving their roots to fulfill their life's ambition in New York City: Catherine Furness (Janet Gaynor), an orphan, yearns to be a writer. The only luck she has is obtaining employment at a salvage shop making clothes for orphaned babies under the supervision and care of Harriet Hawkins (Beryl Mercer); Chris Thring (Charles Farrell), wants to be an lawyer; Mac McGowan (James Dunn), a radio crooner like Rudy Vallee; and Madge Roundtree (Ginger Rogers), a Broadway actress. In true soap-opera tradition, Mac loves Catherine who secretly loves Chris, who loves Madge, who gives up Chris to move back to California, becoming a "companion" to wealthy producer Howard Jackson (Kenneth Thomson), in order to advance her acting career. Despondent, Chris becomes ill with high fever, leaving Catherine to nurse him back to health. After they marry, Madge, realizing the error of her ways, returns to New York to reclaim Chris, regardless of how Catherine might feel about it.
During the 1960s and early 70s, TV Guide magazine used to label this version of CHANGE OF HEART in its schedule. Quite confusing since THE HIT PARADE OF 1943 (Republic) starring John Carroll and Susan Hayward has been retitled CHANGE OF HEART (taken from a hit song from that movie) for television. In Leonard Maltin's earlier edition to his "Movies on TV" book published in the 1980s, he critiques CHANGE OF HEART with a "BOMB" rating, later eliminating his review from subsequent editions. While this can be labeled a companion piece of the much better GENTLEMAN ARE BORN (Warners, 1934) starring Franchot Tone and Jean Muir, having very much the same theme, CHANGE OF HEART does have its flaws, such as accepting these slightly older principal players as college graduates; Dunn's obnoxious personality (which he is supposed to be anyway); Rogers in an unsympathetic role; extensive scene involving Gaynor nursing the bedridden Farrell back to health, each reciting some sappy dialog while she gives him a shave; or Gaynor speaking out her emotions through facial gestures as she did in her silent movies, but on the whole, it's really not that bad.
What makes CHANGE OF HEART even more worthy of recommendation for film buffs is the assortment of familiar actors, whether receiving screen credit for their work or not, in smaller roles, including James Gleason as a Coney Island vendor; silent screen's Mary Carr with Jane Darwell each playing mothers during the opening graduation sequence; Gustav Von Seyffertitz as the kindly doctor; Mischa Auer as a party guest; Dick (billed as Nick) Foran taking time to sing, "Who Cares?"; and of course, Shirley Temple. Temple's performance in the existing print that airs occasionally on the Fox Movie Channel, comes as a bitter disappointment for her fans due to the fact that she's hardly in the movie at all. She's actually in for a fraction of a second on the TWA airliner as a little girl who's given a paper airplane. While billed as Shirley during the closing cast listing, chances are her scene(s) and spoken dialog were cut, an severe oversight from the film editor who didn't have the foresight this child was to become one of Hollywood's biggest/littlest legendary stars.
For all it's worth, CHANGE OF HEART is very nostalgic in the way it presents itself: Imagine taking an airplane ride from California to New York in just 15 hours; the cost of 5 cents for the use of a public pay phone; earning $70 a week or paying $30 a month for an apartment. It also succeeds in recapturing New York City the way it was during the Depression era 1930s through its use of montage footage. These reflections of the times gone by makes CHANGE OF HEART, a rarely seen item from the old Fox Studio vaults, a worthy time capsule piece. (***)
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