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In this reworking of Cinderella, orphaned Connie Harding is sent to live with her rich aunt and uncle after graduating from boarding school. She's hardly received with open arms, especially by her snobby cousin Barbara. When the entire family is invited to a major social ball, Barbara sees to it that Connie is forced to stay home. With the aid of her uncle, who acts as her fairy godfather, Connie makes it to the ball and meets her Prince Charming in Ted Drake, her cousin's boyfriend. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Deanna Durbin stars with Robert Stack, Helen Parrish, Leatrice Joy, Eugene Palette, and Kathleen Howard in "First Love," a 1939 update of the Cinderella story, with Deanna receiving her first screen kiss.
I first had to get over seeing Robert Stack so young - omg.
Deanna plays Constance Harding, an orphan who is spending the summer after her graduation with relatives. It's a sterile household with her uncle (Pallette) who doesn't want any noise and prefers his family be out of the house when he's there; an unbelievable brat of a cousin, Barbara (Parrish); and an airhead aunt (Joy). The only warmth available comes from the servants.
While her mother is busy doing astrology charts, Barbara enjoys the life of a much-photographed socialite and woman about town who has a closet the length of one wall. She's after the most eligible bachelor in town, Ted Drake. One day, she doesn't wake up when she is called at noon and instead gets up at 2. She is invited to go riding at 2:30 with Ted and some others. Because she will be late, she sends Constance to the country club to hold Ted there by any means necessary. Constance does as she's told, but develops a crush on Ted.
The family is then invited to a fabulous party at Ted's. The servants get together and buy Constance a beautiful dress, a corsage, and a wrap from someone's relative. Barbara takes one look at her and makes up a reason why Constance needs to stay home -- something Barbara's brother knew was going to happen all along. But unseen forces are at work.
This is Deanna before my favorite part of her career, which is a little later. As a little girl, she was too energetic and her speaking voice too high-pitched for me. Here, she is delightful, but her singing voice, particularly the top, is thin. Later on, it would open up and be glorious. And Un Bel Di in English - it sounded like they took the literal translation and just had her sing it, with the words not only awkward, but out of order. Not a good choice for her, as the aria is for a much bigger sound, though it fit in very well with the theme.
What made this film a bittersweet experience for me was the beautiful acting of Kathleen Howard as the old maid with a cane, Miss. Wiggins. In those days, if you weren't married, you were nobody, and Miss Wiggins, beloved by her students, exemplifies that. You can tell by the way she talks that she believes life passed her by, but being a strong woman, she has gone on and made the best of it. The end frame of her made me cry. Such an affecting, poignant performance.
I loved this film. Deanna's first kiss garnered a lot of attention; later, the first kiss was tried with Shirley Temple, but in 1942 wartime, no one cared.
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