After being loaned by MGM, his home studio, to Universal for this film, Robert Taylor would not make another non-MGM movie for 24 years (until the 1959 Paramount film _The Hangman (1959)_). See more »
Dr. Robert Merrick:
Take back to the cook and tell her that if she brings back again, I'm gonna buy this hospital and fire her and everybody else in it. I want some decent breakfast.
It's the same breakfast we serve all the patients.
Dr. Robert Merrick:
Yeah, but I am "The Special".
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First of all, I am very partial to Irene Dunne. Her natural acting trumps the affectations often used by Golden Age movie stars to put on airs in their speech and mannerisms. Dunne easily adapts to every role she plays with a presence that is always unique to her character but true to her natural charm.
Secondly, Robert Taylor transformed quite a bit over his long and successful career. I prefer him in his younger years. His youthful fervor is at times petulant and at others hilarious. His range is broader when he is younger and this film is a shining example of what made him a star at MGM.
Also, the script is based on a novel with strong religious convictions, but the movie isn't preachy or condescending. One can give credit to a higher power or directly to Jesus Christ himself. I thought this was handled overtly but without heaping guilt or offense on the viewer. I found it truly inspiring as a Christian and loved the theme portrayed of selfless giving. Once the selfless part registers with Taylor's character, the tone of the movie changes from playboy playful to a mature man and esteemed doctor. This is all highlighted with an excellent supporting cast and direction.
The premise is what has always stopped me from watching this version and the 1950's version with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. Also, I'm no fan of the over-the-top Douglas Sirk melodramas. I may watch it now to compare films, but Sirk seems to grab onto the melodramatic elements in his movies which make the story so unbelievable that I cannot allow myself to be transported. I know Sirk is quite popular, but that's how I've felt about each film of his that I've seen so far.
This version is by all means a soap opera, but it allows for those lighter, comical moments that often bring a juxtaposition to the heavy, thematic subject matter. There are quite a few reviews here where the plot is revealed (even the movie's summary gives away the premise). The most important device relies on this fine cast to see the drama through without making it so syrupy that one cannot enjoy their characters.
Is it tragic? Yes. Is it pure melodrama? No. Thanks to the lighter moments interspersed and the aplomb with which these main actors handle their roles it is not as soapy as I expected. Will you need a box of Kleenex? Possibly. I thought I would be a mess, but there is always a hope that the audience has even when Dunne's character becomes frustrated with her limitations and how they affect those she loves. The message is ultimately so positive that it doesn't allow the tragedies to weigh it down completely.
For now I have given this movie an 8. This was my first viewing. I often raise my ratings after seeing very good films again if, in fact, I ever desire to watch them again. I think this will only get better and I thank TCM for highlighting this memorable version and especially the remarkable gifted and giving actress in Irene Dunne. I highly recommend this version especially if you can see it on TCM. Their copy isn't perfect, but I imagine it would top the video transfers. It also retains the lost 7-8 minutes of the video transfers. Enjoy and prepare to be totally absorbed and perhaps have your own outlook on the themes refreshed or changed. It's a film that lingers and inspires which is about the best one can hope for in a fine film.
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