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W.S. Van Dyke
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It's the early nineteenth century Washington. Young adult Margaret O'Neal - Peggy to most that know her - is the daughter of Major William O'Neal, who is the innkeeper of the establishment where most out-of-town politicians and military men stay when they're in Washington. Peggy is pretty and politically aware. She is courted by several of those politicians and military men who all want to marry her, except for the one with who she is truly in love. Because of her personal situation at the time, she, in 1828, becomes the unofficial first lady to help her old friend - "old" both in terms of age and length of time - Andrew Jackson, who has just been elected President of the United States. Jackson and Peggy have the same political outlook, where the union of the states is paramount, especially when many states see their rights as being more important than the union. Jackson had a rough ride during the election in large part because his wife, Rachel Jackson, was seen as a pipe smoking ... Written by
Lionel Barrymore played U.S. President Andrew Jackson again in the 1952 Western, Lone Star (1952), his last film role. Beulah Bondi, who plays Rachel Jackson in this movie, is also in the later film in a different role. See more »
THE GORGEOUS HUSSY, based on a 1934 historical novel by Samuel Hopkins Adams, is another one of those genteel forays into the past from squeaky clean MGM. The only compelling ingredients in this overlong saga about the controversial hussy Peggy Eaton who wielded much influence over President Andrew Jackson are a few of the performances and the novelty of actual political debates occurring in the context of a love affair; Hollywood seldom mixed those two elements. The first half hour is bone dead, with familiar performers strutting around in period costumes and delivering the necessary exposition. Joan Crawford is not particularly persuasive as a young tavern keeper's daughter. She looks somewhat haggard and hard, but still beautiful. Things liven up with the appearance of Andrew Jackson (Lionel Barrymore) and his unpopular and maligned wife Rachel (Beulah Bondi). Barrymore may have been a ham who gave basically the same performance in film after film, but at least he puts some juice into the proceedings, making the most he can of the extremely diluted representation of Jackson supplied by the script. Bondi is touching in her depiction of the ill-fated Rachel, the love of Jackson's life. Until then we have had to endure endless moments with a dashing but wooden Melvyn Douglas and a competent but unexciting contribution from neophyte Robert Taylor. Jimmy Stewart and later Franchot Tone are on hand too but only in a few scenes and to little effect. And we have the always nasty and conniving Alison Skipworth as a disapproving society matron to hold our attention. And the marvelous Zeffie Tilbury as Skipworth's deaf mother who disagrees strongly with her snobbish daughter's malicious gossip. Between these bits there are occasionally interesting sketches of the political contentions of the time, mostly about how much power should be granted to the individual states, foreshadowing the Civil War. But we never get a sense of what an extraordinary woman the title character was. Nothing in Joan Crawford's performance or in the material given her indicates that this is anything other than an unusually attractive and well behaved lady with romantic yearnings but someone for whose honor and reputation a President would dissolve his cabinet and change the course of US history? No way. You cannot make a polite film about these characters in this historical period, but this is what MGM tried to do.
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