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A young widow is criticized for trying to build a new life in "My
Reputation," a 1946 film starring Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent,
Lucile Watson, and Eve Arden. Some time after Stanwyck's husband dies
from a protracted illness, the lonely and devastated woman goes on a
skiing trip and meets an army major, played by George Brent. She falls
in love with him, but gossip circulates about her and affects two sons.
The film is dated, but Stanwyck is wonderful in an emotional role of a woman who all her life was cowed by her mother's ideas of convention and always afraid to stand up for herself. Brent is okay as her leading man, but if he was supposed to be this love 'em and leave 'em type, he didn't pull it off. He seems too staid. Eve Arden has a small role that perhaps was cut down - she has very little to do and disappears for the last half of the film. It's strange because she seemed to be encouraging the relationship, but why isn't she present to come to Jessica's defense? It's the same crowd of friends, so it's odd that she's missing.
This is an entertaining film with an excellent performance by Stanwyck.
"My Reputation" is a good example of a certain kind of vintage
Hollywood product: it's glossy, yet carries certain real truths. In
beautifully modeled black and white, set in a tony upper-class milieu,
and with one of Max Steiner's creamiest scores, it examines a young
matron's search for autonomy, when her husband dies after a long
illness. Set in 1942, it makes numerous references to the war, so
possibly this post-war film was meant to allude to the loss that many
wives suffered due to the war (or it was one of those films made during
the war but not released for several years).
I think Barbara Stanwyck was incapable of giving a bad performance. Whatever the material, she shone and was absolutely "there." Early in the film there is a scene in which she reads a letter that her late husband had written in the knowledge that it would be read after his death, and she is devastating. There's a kind of bookend scene at the film's end when she tries to explain to her children the nature of her love for a man who has come into her life after their father's death, and again she breaks your heart. In much of that scene she is in shadow as she speaks, so that her voice alone carries the emotion.
This is a terrific film; lushly produced at WB in 1943 and with a performance by Stanwyck that I am still thinking about days later. I am puzzled at some of the negative comments and reviews as I went completely with this film and her performance; not once did I consider it a 'weepie' or felt it was a Crawford or Davis cast off. ... although it did remind me that it could have been almost a sequel to NOW VOYAGER (see both and you will recognize what I mean). MY REPUTATION deals in a very adult and modern manner with the perils of gossip and perceived social status and the mental straight-jacket that entraps the vulnerable. It also deals with a woman's sexuality post widowhood and the effect it has on her teenage sons. The sequence late in the film where she explains this to the boys is one of the great scenes in 40s cinema. The use of shadow (James Wong Howe photography) is ideal. Barbra Stanwyck is breathtakingly beautiful all through this very humane intelligent film; with a supporting cast of strong humorous characters led by the gargoyle Mother played by stone-faced Lucile Watson... giving Gladys Cooper (VOYAGER) a run for her money, or Laura Hope Crewes from the genuinely shocking SILVER CORD from 1932. I had never heard of this title so I was genuinely enthralled and thrilled at MY REPUTATION. It appears the release was botched in 1946 leaving this 3 year old film on the shelf until then which made certain parts of the romance irrelevant to post war audiences. MY REPUTATION is an excellent film, with beautiful sets and art direction, hilarious whimsy and very strong adult themes. Even the Max Steiner score is lovely. Do not be put off by any carping about any aspect of this well intentioned drama... MY REPUTATION is intact (which is more than I can personally say for me today).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A young widow, in an affluent Chicago suburb, learns right away how
much her life is about to change. Jessica Drummond, who has just lost
her husband, discovers, early on, what is expected of her. Her mother,
Mary Kimball, a society matron, has worn her mourning clothes for quite
a long time, something she takes for granted her own daughter will do.
As it's usually the case, some surviving spouses are conveniently dropped from their social circles once their partners have died. Jessica finds out, soon enough, even she becomes an attractive proposition for George Van Orman, one of her closest friends, who wants to take advantage of a vulnerable Jessica. To make matters worse, her two sons go away to boarding school leaving her alone in a large house with not much to do.
That situation changes as Ginna Abbott, a kind friend, invites to join her and her husband for a vacation in California, near Lake Tahoe. Jessica, who is a poor skier, gets stranded as she doesn't know her way back to the Abbotts. When she spots Scott Landis, she asks for help. That meeting proves to be the pivoting point in her life. As a matter of fact, it will also be her downfall, at least in the eyes of her friends back home.
When Maj. Landis gets transferred to Chicago, he meets Jessica by chance. It's clear Jessica has fallen for him, yet, she plays a guarded role, while continuing to see him. Her mother's best friend catches her as she comes to visit Scott, and it's not too soon when Mrs. Kimball learns about it. Her own children get an inkling of what is being rumored about Jessica and Maj. Landis in the worst way. Jessica, who has been planning to go away with Scott, has to think hard about her duty to her sons and her own happiness.
Curtis Bernhardt directed the melodrama which makes for engrossing viewing. It helps that Max Steiner was on board to create the background music, one of the best things in the picture. The camera work of James Wong Howe, a man who knew how to capture it all, created the crisp black and white photography that has kept well even after more than sixty years after it went into production.
Barbara Stanwyck is tremendously appealing as Jessica. She was a consummate professional who made this role one of her best creations. George Brent projected a virile figure in his pictures, and he does a wonderful job to portray Scott Landis as a man torn between what he felt for Jessica and her world. The magnificent Lucile Watson is seen as Mrs. Kimball. Jerome Cowan, Eve Arden, Leona Mariele, play some of the supporting roles with flair.
"My Reputation" was one of Ms. Stanwyck's favorite films. It's clear why she thought so.
An ideal script for Douglas Sirk, charting the emotional liberation of a widow, but filmed without Douglas Sirk. Instead, Curtis Bernhardt commands a lush postwar production: the $5000 limits on set construction were lifted, and it shows. Extras crowd the screen, even in modest scenes, plus James Wong Howe contributes rich low-key lighting, Max Steiner produces an expressive [if undistinctive] score, and Edith Head whips up tasteful costumes. Bernhardt works best in the big scenes, but misjudges some of the lighter moments and cannot light a fire under his leading man, George Brent at his most stolid. Still, there's much to enjoy here: thoughtful dialogue, the stylized upper-crust social milieu, and expert performances, including an unusually sensitive one from Barbara Stanwyck. However, that slight [but crucial] ironic distance of Sirk is sorely missed.
The plot of MY REPUTATION seems a lot like a forerunner of ALL THAT
HEAVEN ALLOWS--the Douglas Sirk sudser that had Jane Wyman as a widow
whose children disapprove of her choice of a new mate. Here, the
children are younger (Scotty Beckett is the youngest boy), and the war
widow theme probably rang a bell with audiences that this was intended
to appeal to during World War II.
But the hitch is, Warners released it in 1946, three years after it was filmed, when the war was over, which made it dated even then. BARBARA STANWYCK is the widow who's afraid that gossip is going to destroy any chance she has of finding romance with another man.
A trivia note about billing: Warners, it seems, had a backlog of films to be released in the early forties and did the same with DEVOTION (filmed in '43) starring Olivia de Havilland and Ida Lupino. It was released three years after de Havilland left Warner Bros. and won a legal suit against them. As punishment, she was taken off top billing and given third place behind Paul Henried. Jack Warner did the same with GEORGE BRENT. He was no longer with Warners by the time MY REPUTATION was released and Jack Warner saw to it that Brent's name was reduced in all the ads so that Stanwyck had the spotlight to herself. Those were the billing practices then. (I'm surprised Brent didn't care enough to sue over this infraction by the studio).
Frankly, Barbara deserved solo spotlight in MY REPUTATION because never have I seen a more stolid, colorless performance from Brent. Bette Davis often referred to him as "wooden" and that certainly applies here. Stanwyck's scenes might just as well have been played opposite a mannequin wearing a Captain's uniform.
Sharp witted EVE ARDEN's role is practically written out of the story toward the end and she has less punch lines than usual. Yet, all in all, the old-fashioned story itself has enough cozy type of holiday scenes to give it a somewhat softer glow than it otherwise would retain.
Helping to keep the romance warm and believable is Max Steiner's score, particularly one theme that sounds strikingly similar to the kind of music he wrote for SINCE YOU WENT AWAY, especially in that final farewell railroad scene between Stanwyck and Brent.
If you're a Stanwyck fan, this is good for a rainy day, but it's not one of her strongest roles and it's really just passable as drama.
MY REPUTATION was one of several pictures produced by Warner Bros. during World War II and then held back for release. Others included THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN (filmed in 41, released in 44) and ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (filmed in 41, released in 44). MY REPUTATION was filmed in 1943 and released for military use in 1944. The Tower Books photoplay edition of the original novel, "Instruct My Sorrow," was published in 1945. The film was finally released to the public in 1946. The military prints and theatrical release prints carry two completely different sets of main titles. There is no difference in footage or scenes between the two release versions.
Barbara Stanwyck's husband dies after a 2 year illness and she is left
with sons 12 and 14.
Her mother, placed excellently by Lucile Watson, wants her to wear black and continue to mourn. Within 2 scenes, mother is suggesting that she become more friendly with a family friend- a banker. Watson insists upon wearing black clothes. She marches on screen as if she is Queen Victoria. The best part is that her husband has been dead for 25 years. It is only at the end of the film that Watson offers excellent advice to her daughter and again shows the wonderful character actress traits that made her such a good thespian.
Eve Arden, as a friend of Stanwyck, is given little to do here other than comforting her and getting her to go on vacation with her and her husband only to have George Brent, as Col. Landis, enter the picture. Arden has only one wise-crack remark in this film and that is unusual for her.
Vicious gossip ensues in the town as romance buds. The boys, naturally, are adversely affected by the gossip that will invariably lead to an appropriate ending.
Despite the flaws I mentioned, the film is a good one as it deals with a problem of widowhood and children. The solution given here was quite adequate and with a fine cast, the picture rises above any criticism depicted.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Surprisingly,this film has never been set up as a woman's lib type film which it certainly is. Barbara follows all the conventional rules,marriage,children,then it all falls apart. Her husband dies,her two boys are leaving for boarding school,everything is all arranged but what is Barbara to do. Her mother wants her to be in permanent mourning like she has for 25 years and be her companion. Barbara tries to fill her life with volunteer work and fending off advances from her friends' husbands,who all seem to think she's accessible since she's a widow. The entry of George Brent as a new man on the scene wakes her up and makes the neighbors gossip/ Barbara has done nothing wrong but the rule of the day is she causing a scandal,even her sons are mad at her. Her pal Eve Arden talks her into a skiing trip where she finds romance with Brent. The director said Max Steiner's score was one of his less pompous ones and it's used well through the film,serving as a love song,triumphant march when Barbara goes to Brent's apartment and a beautiful farewell scene at train station. I loved the part where Barbra enters Brent's apartment and exclaims its' beauty when all of a sudden she sees the bedroom and the music stops with a thump. Definitely a movie to see,not on tape or DVD unfortunately,wish it were. By the way,the Max Steiner score was reused for The McConnel Story starring Alan Ladd and June Allyson.
Barbara Stanwyck gets a "10" vote for her performance. She is
incredibly skilled and she delivers beyond description.
The cinematography is wonderful (esp. firelight scenes). It rates a "10". The classy, orchestrated musical score doesn't rate a "10" but is perfect for this movie.
Fine supporting acting. The old actress who portrays Stanwyck's mom is terrific in a very unsympathetic role. Her stodginess provides a rock-hard theme throughout the film. Even the child actors are all very good. Eve Arden- excellent.
Brent is a problem. I can't figure out how he can do such a poor job in a role that he practically patented. Who better to hire for the "George Brent" role than THE George Brent? For some reason he just seems uninterested in this film project. The ending of the film is also problematic. It includes a well-staged interior scene with her sons and beautifully filmed train station scenes, but the script at this point becomes truncated and slapdash.
This movie is definitely on my "recommend" list due to Stanwyck's outstanding work. It has many good qualities that make it watchable, but is dragged down to an overall "7" due to only two negatives- Brent's lack of effort, and the unsatisfying ending.
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