Three Wise Fools (1946)
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I remember seeing this film at that time when WW2 was over and we all were full of hope about the future. I was born the same year as Maggie and those previously maintained women and she has always connected me with those times during my youth when fantasy was as important as the future.
I agree that films such as this deserve to be made available for DVD purchase, most likely in a best of Margaret O'Brien set. Unfortunately for us classic film buffs, the sales numbers would pale in comparison to those for the latest CGI fantasy-action product that can be cross-marketed to toys, video games, theme parks, TV series' and numerous movie sequels. Thus the expectation for a DVD release by the corporation owning the film rights is minimal. They are only interested in profit margins. Long live TCM. And may there some day be a TCM II!
When I first saw this movie listed on TCM's lineup I was hesitant to get too excited. Despite having a phenomenal cast, it's not a well-known film and it appears to have mixed reviews from critics, professional and otherwise. This made me concerned that it would be a disappointment. Well it wasn't! This is a charming, fantastical little film with lots of humor and heart. The cast is perfect. Margaret O'Brien brings all of the adorable tools in her little bag out here. She hits all her comedy notes right without overplaying it and is her usual melodramatic self with the weepy stuff. She could be an over-actor, no doubt, but so was Bette Davis and everybody loves her for it. She has wonderful chemistry with all of the older actors, especially the terrific Thomas Mitchell. For their parts, the three lead actors are all great. It might amuse some fans of their respective MGM series that Barrymore plays a cantankerous doctor (as he did in the Kildare movies) and Stone plays a judge (as he did in the Hardy series). In addition, there is wonderful support from Harry Davenport (wearing Yoda ears), Jane Darwell, Charles Dingle, Ray Collins, and Henry O'Neill. Also Cyd Charisse appears briefly near the beginning.
Other reviewers have complained that the movie should not have included the fantasy elements. They say that the simple story of the little girl melting the hearts of the old men would have been good enough. I can see where it would still be a fine film without the leprechauns but I fail to see how the addition of these things hurts the film. To me, it adds an extra bit of charm. Unless you're an old fusspot who likes everything grounded in reality as much as depressingly possible, then I don't really get the beef. You're either going to welcome a movie like this with open arms on its terms or your not. If not, you'll probably be put off by just about everything in this because it's very sentimental and delightfully corny.
There also is a goofy subplot involving fairies--led by the wonderful character actor Henry Davenport. And, since O'Brien is Irish (as evidenced by her outrageous accent), she and the little people make up much of the plot. Frankly, I absolutely hated this portion of the film and wished they'd just dropped it entirely. Instead, the story could STILL have been about sweet Margaret melting the mean old men's hearts--this would have worked. But...the "little people"?!? Sheesh! Overall, the actors try very, very hard but the silliness of the plot and the deadly earnest way they tried made me cringe. I noticed a lot of people liked this film--I guess I'm just an old grouch! I found the film horrible difficult to watch.
Deforestation is beneficial to the Fay because it means barista jobs aplenty.
And while the fairy-tree in this fantasy isn't becoming a Starbucks, it's about to be uprooted.
Determined to leave a legacy that'll allude to their generosity, three misers (Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Lewis Stone) donate land to the university.
But their vanity project is put on hold when they learn the property actually belongs to an Irish orphan (Margaret O'Brien) whose grandmother all three had courted.
But the waif is unwilling to sell on account a tree on the parcel is refuge to the wee-folk.
Despite its unfortunate casting of little people as the forest imps, this 1946 adaptation of the stage-play does capture the enchantment of Irish folklore, and the transformative effects it has on the disillusioned.
However, if we saved every tree based on fairy tales all we'd have to show for it would be stupid oxygen.
The problem for me was the overlay of some sort of Irish superstitious fairy tale upon what could have been just a fine tale of a young bright girl coming to live with three crusty bachelors. To get her in the house, instead we get some sort of muddled mess about an Irish curse or blessing, a princess-like character running off with her fair prince-like character and all dying while being buried standing up - or something. I don't even think that a spoiler because I didn't get enough of it to really be able to make a spoiler.
Once in the household, O'Brien plays well against the three old crusts despite affecting a silly Irish accent and pitching her voice so high that I had to ask my dog for a fill in of at least some of the dialog.
Seeing this cast in action was a treat. Too bad the story wasn't stronger. They deserve better.