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Robert Z. Leonard,
W.S. Van Dyke
Fourteen-year-old Tessa is hopelessly in love with handsome composer Lewis Dodd, a family friend. Lewis adores Tessa, but has never shown any romantic feelings toward her. When Tessa's father dies, Lewis contacts her late mother's wealthy family so they'll take care of Tessa and her sisters. Lewis becomes taken with Tessa's haughty cousin Florence and the two soon marry and head off for Florence's estate in England. Meanwhile, Florence sends Tessa and her sister Paula off to finishing school. The girls run away from school and Tessa moves in with Florence and Louis. Florence soon becomes consumed with jealousy over the bond between her husband and Tessa. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Stunning Korngold score but disappointing in every other respect...
Having heard for years that THE CONSTANT NYMPH was one of Joan Fontaine's favorite performances and knowing that Erich Wolfgang Korngold wrote the score for it, I looked forward to the film with much anticipation when I finally had a chance to see it.
Unfortunately, aside from good performances from Charles Boyer and Alexis Smith, I found Miss Fontaine's Tessa just too cloying and simpering to be realistic. I thought she played the awkwardness of youth much better in LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN, a really much more solid and forceful role. Tessa just seems to be a girl inordinately fond of a musician who doesn't realize, until too late, what the girl means to him.
Oddly enough, the scenes between Boyer and Alexis Smith are more developed than any of the quieter scenes between Boyer and Fontaine. Smith makes the wife a sympathetic creature because her jealousy is easy to comprehend.
An altogether disappointing film aside from a glorious score by Korngold that leads to the final concerto where he fully develops the love theme for Boyer and Fontaine.
Unfortunately, most of the sets for the country scenes early in the story look like painted backdrops so that one never gets the feeling that Tessa's environment is a real one. Nor does the story give Joan Fontaine ample opportunity to fully flesh out her character since she is missing from much of the middle portion of the film.
For a great Fontaine performance, I suggest viewing LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN with Joan at her best.
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