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André De Toth
Polly Fulton is the only daughter of rich industrialist B.F. Fulton. She is about to marry the man of her dreams, attorney Robert Tasmin, when she meets the intellectual Thomas Brett. They fall in love and soon they marry. Brett has always been opposed to the lavish lifestyle of the rich, and the anger he feels, when he realizes that he has through his marriage become one of the wealthy, is turned against his wife. Written by
Barbara Stanwyck is "B.F.'s Daughter" in this 1948 film, with Charles Coburn as B.F., Van Heflin, Keenan Wynn, and Spring Byington.
This film is based on a controversial novel with a different, more political emphasis and turned into a romantic soap opera by MGM.
Stanwyck plays Pauline, from a wealthy family, who is engaged to marry Bob Tasmin (Richard Hart), someone she's known for years. However, she meets a good-looking and interesting left-wing economy professor, author, and lecturer, Thomas Brett (Heflin) and falls in love with him. They get married right away and move to a cabin in Minnesota. Polly, or Paul as she is called, takes an allowance from her father with Tom's blessing - however, he's made it clear he's not interested in B.F.'s money or B.F.'s interest in his career.
Unbeknownst to him, Pauline uses her father's connections to get Tom started on the lecture circuit. He becomes very successful, and Pauline is determined to help him be a great man and furnishes a fabulous house in Connecticut - which he hates and announces that he won't be returning there. He becomes a big mucky-muck in Washington as war approaches. Meanwhile, Pauline sees her marriage falling apart.
One of the points of the book was that the common man was the true patriot and true American, and Marquand, the author, took the liberal approach of resentment toward the rich. Some of this is softened in the film, though it's obvious that B.F. and Tom come from very different places ideologically. In MGM's hands, this is a clash of ideologies that gets in the way of a marriage.
I found the performances terrific from everyone, but especially Stanwyck, who is lovely and sincere, and Heflin, a wonderful actor who left us too soon, and a fine leading man or character actor, whatever the role called for.
The story certainly held my interest, but I felt that the Heflin character was too rigid. It's a tougher world today in which to make a career than it was in the '40s, okay, and it's admirable to want to "make it on your own," but even with connections, if you can't cut the mustard, you won't have success. Obviously Tom was a talented man and good speaker and once he got started, did very well. There is nothing wrong with getting help at the bottom of the ladder - I took issue with this and found it naive. Also, knowing the relationship his wife had with her father, to disrespect him as he did in the party scene was wrong.
I think just about anything with Barbara Stanwyck in it is worth seeing, and I also feel that way about Van Heflin. And the supporting cast of Coburn, Byington, Wynn, and Margaret Lindsey are very good. The script is a little problematic, but the cast elevates it.
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