Cynthia (1947) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
13 Reviews
Sort by:
charming trifle
hildacrane11 September 2005
Elizabeth Taylor seemed to go almost overnight in films from child to voluptuous young woman. But in this nice low-budget (for MGM) movie, made when she was 15 at most, there is something of the sweetly awkward colt about her, in the title role. There are scenes in which she sort of oscillates between childhood and adulthood--the visual equivalent of an adolescent's voice cracking--and it was in this movie that she got her first screen kiss (from an engaging James Lydon).

It's a bittersweet movie, about the deferrals and compromises that one has to make in life--the parents who don't continue their higher education, the soldier who resumes his, the refugee professor. As Cynthia's mother, Mary Astor brings her usual warmth and common sense, and there are vague echoes of her questing, yearning character in "Dodsworth." Cynthia's illness is used as something of a metaphor for domestic discontent, and in view of Taylor's chronic health problems is a little unsettling in retrospect.
27 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"Cynthia" has the candy-coated flavor of realism and feeling…
Nazi_Fighter_David4 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"Cynthia" is the story of a girl tyrannized by parents who think she's too delicate for the likes of this world…

Kept in a protected, glass menagerie kind of environment, Cynthia hasn't been allowed to grow up in a normal way… But with the he1p of a mother (Mary Astor) who's willing to bend, and a music teacher (S. Z. Sakall) who thinks she's a princess, Cynthia makes it to the school prom—and survives…

Due to her youthful talent for charming her audiences and a physical beauty perhaps precocious for her fifteen years, her character provides the sweet, innocent side of Liz… With her precise diction and her obedient manner, she has something of the carriage of the best behaved little girl in the class, but her performance has a kind of grave charm… The movie's slogan was "Her First Kiss!" but Taylor's romance with Jimmy Lydon (who was also her heartthrob in "Life with Father") is clearly pre-erotic: she's sweet rather than sexy in this one…

Like many of the early Taylor movies, "Cynthia" has the candy-coated flavor of realism and feeling…The last scene, in which Liz bounds into the living room, confounding her parents' fear, that going to the prom on a rainy night would do her in, is her declaration of independence: bright and energetic, all set to become part of a normal teenage life, Cynthia (and movie star Liz) are now all grown-up and ready for action…
24 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Emotion is the directors job
katdeux21 August 2002
I came into this film on TCM at 6:15 AM one morning, about 1/4 into it so I missed the opening and establishing of the players backgrounds and motivations, and I did not 'get them' until the denouement. The motivations of the mother and father as well as the uncle as the doctor and his family, are the engine that drive the plot. However, the directors job, once he has a decent story, is to elicit emotion of varying kinds from the audience. If you want to look at and watch Liz Taylor in all her youthful glory and magnetism, this is one of the best. Ironically if forebodes her complete life as a great actress who has health problems all her life. This film took me up and down several times much to my amazement and has a great Hollywood, happy wrap up. (nothing wrong with feeling good especially at 6 A M). Yes, of course there are some problems but I watch films for the way they make me feel in the end, not specifically to be a critic, especially films of this genre and contrived time period. I loved it because it made me feel alive and real!!We all have felt these same emotions in our youth and this well done film allows us feel these once more.
27 out of 35 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Something off-beat
lzf010 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
***SLIGHT SPOILERS*** Teenaged Elizabeth Taylor stars as a "sickly" girl who just wants to live a normal high school life. Her parents and her uncle, who is her doctor, are obsessively overprotective. It is stated early in the film, "You've never had any illness that most children don't get, but it is more severe with you." Is it? There is something a little dark in this portrayal of small town life. It is a milder, MGM version of "Kings Row". Is Cynthia's uncle-doctor so jealous that she is brighter and more beautiful than his own daughter that he will concoct fake illnesses for his niece? Are Cynthia's under-achieving parents so insecure that they will listen to their obviously psycho brother-in-law? There also seems to be that "too young to be pregnant" theme concerning the marriage of Cynthia's parents. This is ridiculous; they were adults who got married and settled. It's not about the taking away of dreams! Is Cynthia's birth to blame for her parents' failures? I should say not! They wanted to study medicine and music in Vienna. Nowhere is it mentioned that this would have been impossible anyway with the rise of one Adolf Hitler! What about the music teacher, Mr. Rosencrantz? He longs for Vienna. Why? If he was still in Vienna, the Nazis would have put him in the gas chamber! None of this is mentioned at all. There is a nice touch in characterization which shows Cynthia's mother willing to change and let her daughter grow up, while Cynthia's father is completely under the control of his sister and brother-in-law. Still, Cynthia's mother has a very difficult time letting go. The ironic humor of the piece has Cynthia falling for an older boy who has a reputation of being somewhat wild; he turns out to be as overprotective as her parents!

"Pop" Leonard's direction lacks humor and the film can get a little heavy. There is one slapstick sequence featuring former "Our Gang" star Scotty Beckett. George Murphy and Mary Astor are very sympathetic as the parents, and Gene Lockhart is an excellent villain. S. Z. Sakall, as the Austrian-Jewish music teacher is as welcome as always. Jimmy Lydon is quite good in his role as Liz's boyfriend; there is no trace of Henry Aldrich here! This is a rare chance to see Liz Taylor as an innocent and sweet girl. She pulls it off like an older version of Margaret O'Brien. You just have to root for her and love her. But who is that doing Liz's singing? Is it Liz? Sometimes it sounds like her voice, while other times it sounds like Jane Powell. Was there some kind of mix and match voice thing going on?
18 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
dbdumonteil22 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Although it features a young (and very moving) Liz Taylor,this movie belongs to Mary Astor.Without this energetic mother ,her daughter would have lived a life poisoned with protection ,with a lot of people trying to enlighten her ,to cure her so called diseases;in short she would have lived shut away in her own house,under her uncle's(a doctor)watchful eye.The meal is the moment when Cynthia (and her mother) realizes that her hypocrite cousin gets her pleasure from her pain ,and from the fact she'll never meet boys and be a girl like the other ones. Ditto for Cynthia 's father who keeps a low profile before his boss and never dares to ask a promotion or to put himself forward in a chairmanship election.

The mother is some kind of fairy godmother whose coach does not turn into a pumpkin again."The movement you need is on your shoulder"
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Home sweet Home in Napoleon Illinois
sol29 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
**SPOILERS** 15 year old Eizabeth Taylor plays the sickly and always catching colds flu's and pneumonia Cynthia Bishop in this coming of age film where, as far as I know, she gets her first film kiss by the most sought after boy is school Ricky Latham, Jimmy Lydon. It's Ricky who in fact ended up taking the gorgeous shy and always catching colds Cynthia to the high-school dance when she was left without a date due to her very sickly condition. With the boys in her school not wanting to catch,like a serious case of double pneumonia, anything off her.

You can see right away that Cynthia's illness was more in her mind then in her body with her quack of a doctor uncle Dr Fred Janning, Gene Lockhart, always giving her pills and shots to straighten her immune system which in fact was weakening it. Weakening it to the point where she spent more time in bed, for the first 15 years of her life, then out of it. Cynthia's parents Larry & Louise Bishop, George Murphy & Mary Astor, have been bled dry money-wise paying for her medical bills and it has caused them to to put their dreams on hold in leaving that hick town that they live in Napoleon Illinois for big city metropolis Chicago. The place to be and prosper as well as mix with a higher, and richer, class of people. All this silliness comes to a sudden end when Cynthia herself throws caution to the wind and risks her life to go out to the school dance, in a driving rain, and enjoy herself for the first time in her life! Which in fact turned out to be the best medicine for her as it turned her life around for the better. That after she came down with another bout, her last, of pneumonia that she recovered from without the help and snake oil-like treatment of Dr. Janning.

Elizabeth Taylor even at age 15 was drop dead gorgeous even though she played a girl who seemed to have, like in the movie "Love Story", a short time to live and never be able to reach her 21th birthday! In fact that was about the only negative thing in the film. It just showed that "Liz" no matter what role she played and how much makeup she had on her the studios just couldn't make her look bad, or sickly, no matter how hard they tried! Even in a part that call for it.

P.S Not only Cynthia got cured of her many illnesses but her parents as well. In them not wanting to leave Napoleon Ill and go on to bigger and better places like Chicago which with it's stressful living conditions, compared to the tranquil one's in little Napoleon, would have made life worse not better for the recovering Cynthia.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Average teen drama
kenandraf25 August 2002
Average drama about middle class teen ager concerns featuring the great Elizabeth Taylor as a sickly but special High School girl.Nothing spectacular.One to be realy enjoyed by Taylor's biggest fans though.Could have been better with higher quality screenplay/script and music......
8 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Elizabeth Taylor Fights to Overcome Illness and Teenageritis
chauge-7325313 March 2018
Elizabeth Taylor in the title role plays an overprotected 15-year-old who has lengthy bouts of illnesses seemingly due to a compromised immune system. She yearns to do normal teenage activities, but keeps having these setbacks related to her illness that constantly worry her parents (played by George Murphy and Mary Astor) and her doctor uncle (played by Gene Lockhart). Their strategy to prevent the illnesses from happening is to isolate her from her friends at school, have her come straight home, and forbid her from participating in school activities. Of course Cynthia is not going to be a wallflower forever, because this is a young Elizabeth Taylor here and the one thing she does not suffer from, even at 15, is awkward teenager syndrome compared to most. Noticing this right away is Ricky Latham (played by Jimmy Lydon, who was not the Zac Efron of the 40's, but somehow managed to play Taylor's love interest in "Life with Father" as well), who looks past the sicknesses and sees a beautiful, smart, charismatic young girl that just needs to get out of the house. Noticing this as well with jealousy is her cousin Fredonia (played by Carol Brannan), who has eyes on Ricky also, despite the fact she has a boyfriend of her own. Eventually, Cynthia's mother realizes that babying her will never teach her to overcome her problems, and hatches a plan with her daughter to get her to the Prom without Dad and Uncle knowing. Elizabeth Taylor shows her acting is beyond the capabilities of most other teenage actors of her day, but still displays the girlish charm of someone coming into her own. The movie has a fair amount of fretting and whining, but it does come out of it with some fine comedic scenes throughout the film and underrated performances from the supporting cast.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Give it a chance
jarrodmcdonald-112 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is not a very well-known MGM film, and it is certainly one of Elizabeth Taylor's least known films. She was around 15 when it originally hit screens, probably 14 when it was made. She has top billing over Hollywood pros George Murphy and Mary Astor who play her parents. S.Z. Sakall is fourth-billed as her music instructor. The story concerns a somewhat awkward and sickly teenage girl whose family smothers her. At times her only bit of happiness is when Sakall is teaching her at the piano. I do think the performances are very good, though. Murphy and Astor are believable as stodgy parents who only want the best for their young daughter; Gene Lockhart who plays a doctor/uncle and Spring Byington as his wife are appropriately fussy and interfering; and Sakall comes in at key moments to brighten things up, in case it all gets too maudlin.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Sugar-coated trifle with sweet (rather than sexy) Taylor...
Neil Doyle7 October 2006
ELIZABETH TAYLOR's fans are really the only ones who will find any reason to watch CYNTHIA, a sugar-coated confection about a sickly girl churned out by MGM for the fast developing teen who was turning into a woman almost overnight.

Here, at fifteen, she's still got a lot of her girlish charm, exhibits a modest singing voice (is that her???), and portrays a girl who's so fragile that her parents hold her back from doing anything more strenuous than going to the corner store.

Ironically, it foretells Liz's own lifelong struggle with illness. GEORGE MURPHY and MARY ASTOR are her rather stern but loving parents and JIMMY LYDON is the boyfriend who gives Taylor her first screen kiss. S.Z. SAKALL is her encouraging music teacher.

It's all very downbeat without a sense of humor, too straightforward in the telling for its own good. Unimaginative and more of a B-film than anything else.
5 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Elizabeth in her prime!
JohnHowardReid24 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This was Elizabeth Taylor's first "grown up" movie.

It's what the trade used to call "a woman's picture" -- with some justification in this case, as it is based on Vina Delmar's stage play, "The Rich Full Life".

Elizabeth acquits herself well. She later stated that she had an ideal director in Robert Z. Leonard who not only encouraged her but gave her plenty of confidence.

Even more importantly, Leonard didn't rush matters, but proceeded slowly and took time out to coach her;

The slow speed made photographer Schoenbaum happy too. He often referred to his camerawork here as some of his best work ever, as he had plenty of time to tinker with the lighting and make Elizabeth look absolutely radiant!

Oddly, despite all this care, the movie was only moderately successful at the box-office. It made money sure, but it was nothing like the windfall that studio head Louis B. Mayer expected.

The critics were neither steamed up nor overly indulgent, but almost everyone agreed that Liz was off to a good start as a grown-up actress.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
let this be a lesson to you
outriderspoetry6 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The "all-American" values that this film promotes are mostly repulsive, i.e. that it is a fate worse than hell for a teenager to get As in school, that her only chance for health and happiness it to have a boyfriend, that mother knows best, that most doctors are stuffy and inept authority figures, that the only music worth listening to is operetta, etc. etc. etc. The young Elizabeth Taylor plays the teenager in question, George Murphy her overprotective father (she is the objectification of the timidity he can't overcome), and Mary Astor. It is Astor's magnificent performance that ultimately is the only thing that makes this film worth watching. Somehow she manages to be magnificently ambivalent--as steely as any bitch she plays in her film-noir roles and yet as wise and maternal as the film's ethos requires her to be. As for Taylor, I find her primping prettiness quite off-putting. Somehow her beauty (of which there can be no doubt) comes off as calculating and inauthentic. When she swoons over the lout of a teenager who falls for her, I'm ready to gag.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Repellent, reactionary, rubbish
cmichaud6 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Frothy? I guess in as much as horse manure fresh from the blender could be deemed to be so – but I should think 'leaden' would better describe this truly horrible offering from MGM in 1947. The only thing 'light' about it was the flimsy, two dimensional portrayal by George Murphy of Cynthia's father, a cardboard cut out of a character who seemed to be in danger of accidentally being trodden underfoot throughout the movie. The rest of the cast including Mary Astor, S.Z. Sakall and a very young Elizabeth Taylor gamely attempt to breathe life into this decidedly un-leavened and moribund piece of movie-making, but a script of almost mind boggling awfulness resists any effort to bring it to life. Perhaps it was simply a product of the early cold war period? Conformity and settling for second best are celebrated and the only message seems to be that it's OK to be average and ordinary and to sacrifice the dreams of youth as long as you're married, own your own home and hold down a job you hate.

Perhaps the most stomach churning scene occurs near the film's conclusion when Cynthia's mentor the Viennese music professor played by S.Z. Sakall tells her parents that in essence they are wrong to have hankered to leave their hometown and that everything here in Napoleon (including the coffee, mind you) is better than it was in his native city. I don't know which god-forsaken outer suburb of Vienna he'd been living in – but if he really believes this Midwestern hell hole in any way rivals one of the world's richest cultural capitals, I'd say he should have stayed in Vienna and presented himself to Sigmund Freud for emergency analysis.

As for poor Cynthia - she shows promise at the story's beginning – she reads and enjoys Shakespeare, she sings, she has spirit. She doesn't appear to fully embrace the 'school spirit' that renders her schoolmates into unpleasant, robotic, unquestioning and school-song- singing yahoos. But that's gradually all crushed out of her and she seems to fully embrace the same inertia at the movie's conclusion that stultifies her parents. "I'm going Steady!" She crows triumphantly at the film's conclusion. Yeah Cindy, honey. And I'm going straight to the bathroom to throw up.
2 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews