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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
BF'S DAUGHTER was released in the United Kingdom under the name POLLY
FULTON, and I wonder if this would have been a better title in the same
as her STELLA DALLAS, THELMA JORDAN, and Joan Crawford's Oscar winning
MILDRED PIERCE. Now, while this was no MILDRED PIERCE, it was a typically
glossy MGM soap opera treatment of a best-selling novel that was also a
political satire of the United States' upper class citizens nearing the
of the great depression. It was glossed-over into a simple love story
destined for a happy ending. Much of the sheen showcased the beauty and
acting skills of one Miss Barbara Stanwyck, a title of respect given to
as early as 1931, and puts her in an excellent company of seasoned
professionals who hold their own and keep the story charming and engaging.
One of my favorite scenes is where Stanwyck's Polly reacts to what the
tells her when her father BF is lying ill in the next room. Another
Stanwyck scene is near the end when she confronts her husband about the
Dutch girl with whom he is rumored to be having an affair and Stanwyck's
Polly tells him that she loves her ex-fiancé because he is an honorable
honest man, basically like her father, but she is not in love with him;
she hates her husband for not appreciating and respecting her father, and
the same time she really loves her husband, whom she may end up losing.
amazing thing I noticed in this scene is that I could see here the same
Stanwyck that I saw in her closing moments with Richard Chamberlain in
Thorn Birds" some thirty-five years later in the famous `I still feel, I
still love' scene before she goes off to die. The emotion and the
the fire and desire, were here as it remained with her to the very end. It
is a Stanwyck trademark and really the controlling element of her
of Polly Fulton. If you are a Stanwyck fan, you will appreciate that this
is her picture from start to finish.
A very essential part of this movie that should not go unnoticed is the cast of supporting stars. Van Heflin and Stanwyck always had good chemistry and seemed to be cut from the same mold. See them in the year earlier MARTHA IVERS or EAST SIDE WEST SIDE made the year later for more of the same subtle interplay between two consummate stars. It's particularly rare that a pairing of two such similar actors sparkle as well when the norm is to make them opposites for more attraction. Other veteran actors in this movie who had played the same role opposite Stanwyck in other movies should be noted. Her loving and doting father, BF, a self-made millionaire and industrial-capitalist is not immune to shedding a tear when his daughter announces that she plans to elope, and he blames it on the sun in his eyes. He is played with the feisty charm of Charles Colburn who was seven years earlier her loving and doting father in THE LADY EVE. Quite similarly, her mother played here so effectively by Spring Byington was also her sweet, and widowed mother in MEET JOHN DOE. The only real difference in Miss Byington's two mothers is their social statuses, but both were patient and kind and ready to yield advice when asked based on what their husbands would have said. Then there is Martin Ainsley, a somewhat lovable antagonist, played by Keenan Wynn who is both a commentator against the rich, and later a war correspondent who was always making monumentally incorrect predictions concerning the unfolding drama of the dawning of the Second World War almost to the point of being comical. His real name, Francis Xavier Aloysius James Jeremiah Keenan Wynn, was a comic piece in itself, and in real life, he was the son of actor-comedian Ed Wynn and Hilda Keenan
Perhaps it is because I had the attitude that too much work goes into making a movie for it to be dismissed as totally worthless, as some critics would, that I wanted to find the good of this story. There is a very telling line delivered by Polly's best friend, Apples, about marriages, also expressed by BJ in another scene in a slightly different way, which said that marriage is not always the same as in the books but it's still worth fighting for. Some have said that this movie was not faithful to the book on which it was based and it could have been a better movie if it had been. Is this news? In Hollywood, I think, this is the norm rather than the exception. If I were writing a review of a car made in the United Kingdom, I would hesitate to be critical of the fact that the stirring wheel is on the right side of the vehicle. I restate my original claim that this movie chose to emphasize personal relationships over worldly and political issues. Perhaps a movie like Striesand's and Redford's THE WAY WE WERE did a much better job of clashing love and politics some twenty six years later, as many movies do, I'm sure, but that one quickly comes to mind. Polly worshipped the ground that her father walked on and he wanted her to be happy above all else. His influence was quite evident and he was the more dominant of the two parents throughout the movie. I loved the sarcastic toast that Tom made to his father-in-law at dinner which said: `To BF from whom all blessings flow: ' True to style, the sarcasm was totally lost on Mrs. BF who remarked, `That's really sweet, Tom.' A more subtle influence from her mother should be noted by the way Polly wanted to be both needed and dominated my the men in her life. The scene where her mother discovers Polly with a needle and thread is an amusing one. It was, of course, for mending her suitor's (Heflin's) coat. Upon visiting her fiancé's rather plain and unadorned apartment for the first time after he has declined her financial advice based on a tip she assumed from her father, her second assumption was that this would be where she could finally do something to help her struggling up-and-coming-junior-executive-fiancé but he is too morally correct and proud to be interested in her plans. She leaves thinking that he is an iron man, cold and heartless, much like the symbolic iron man clock that the Fultons have in their home, which strikes a resounding blows for each hour that passes. He even promises her that when they are married, they will have iron animals on their lawn in New Jersey, but her eyes have a faraway look in them that says `South Seas.' A few scenes later a turning point comes early in the movie when Polly asks her fiancé, who was also her childhood sweetheart, to forbid her to go to the Speakeasy with her friend Apples, and he says that he would wait until they are married. However, at the Speakeasy the first thing that the new man-to-be in her life, played by Van Heflin, says to her is that he would forbid her from coming to such a place with anyone other than himself. Later when she complains about his missing button and torn suit, she replies, `you look awful from top to bottom.' His response was, `Why don't you improve me.' Nobody can say that he didn't ask for it. When he asks her to go with him to the South Seas, their fate is sealed. As great an actress as she was, even Miss Stanwyck admitted that she was in her share of bad movies, but I also remember reading once in the biography STARRING MISS BARBARA STANWYCK by Ella Smith where she said that nobody ever sets out to make a bad movie, but once you realize that is isn't going to turn out as well as you hoped, it still deserved the best you could give of yourself. Here we have in a sentence the legendary professionalism of this eternal star. Even if this movie is not all that it should be, just look for the silver lining. It's Barbara Stanwyck.
Viewers will recognize Charles Coburn from Gentlemen Prefer Blonds & Monkey Business. Here he plays Burton Fulton, successful businessman, father to Polly (Barbara Stanwyck). Co-stars Van Heflin, Keenan Wynn, and Spring Byington round out the familiar faces in "BF's Daughter". Polly falls for Tom Brett (Heflin) and they talk about "eating in speak-easys" and "the depression", but this was made in 1948, and it sure looks like 1948 throughout. This was written by John Marquand, who had also written some of the Mr. Moto books. The film feels a lot like the Magnificent Ambersons, which had come out six years before -- story of a rich family, and how the offspring deals with changing times. Very serious storyline... the only humor is the ongoing joke of repeatedly calling one of the locals by the wrong name. When Polly tries to help Tom with his career, things don't work out as she wanted. Stanwyck also made "Sorry Wrong Number" right after this in 1948 - THAT role got her nominated for an Oscar... but not THIS one. The script needs some spicing up, or something. Everything and everyone is technically competent, but there's something lacking.
Turner Movie Classics featured a Barbara Stanwyck "Festival" this week,
and I'm in the process of viewing ten I recorded. I must say, the lady
is truly remarkable, giving her all to every performance.
In the case of "B. F.'s Daughter," Stanwyck is fully involved, feeling and executing her role with complete mastery. Fortunately, she's surrounded by an excellent cast headed by Van Heflin and Charles Colburn. The script may be flawed, but you'd never know it from the commitment given by this talented cast.
Call it a "B" or "women's picture"--"B. F.'s Daughter" held my attention throughout, thanks to its cast and MGM production values.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is based on a best-selling 1946 novel by John P. Marquand, which
satirized a number of aspects of American society between 1932 and 1946,
among them liberal and conservative views, the discrepancy between the
wealthy and the ordinary folk, and lesser items like radio commentators
didn't know much but didn't let that stop them from sounding off,
overbearing Pentagon brass, marriages made on the rebound and so on.
However, you'll find precious little of the satire in this film version.
MGM turned Marquand's novel into a "women's picture" that enforces what
considered in the late 40s to be the proper roles a man and woman should
The plot deals with Polly Fulton, the adventurous daughter of a wealthy industrialist, who decides she doesn't want to marry the stuffed shirt she's engaged to, though he's a decent enough chap. Instead, she will marry a man with ideas, someone a bit off the beaten paths she knows: an assistant professor of economics at Columbia University. (Live dangerously. Ha!) In this limited space, I can't detail much plot beyond indicating that the financial discrepancy between the wife and the husband lead to problems that bring them to the brink of divorce. One point the film is enforcing is that women should not emasculate their husbands by providing financial aid to them. "Hubby" should be the bread winner, even if the wife is wealthy.
Before Polly's father dies, he asks her if she's happy in her marriage. She admits that she is not. Now B.F. tells her, "Marriage is an investment. It's like a business. Fight for your marriage." Polly's best friend tells her, "Lots of marriages aren't the way they say they are in books. But they are worth fighting for." So much for this film's philosophy. At the film's conclusion, when Polly's husband is about to leave her, she runs after him, shouting, "Oh, Tom. Don't go! I need you!" With that Tom enfolds her in his arms and says, "Oh, Polly, that's all I've been waiting to hear" and kisses her. Marriage saved. Does this sound like something you want to see today?
In the novel, Tom had had an affair, and the marriage was not saved. But this film version is so gutless that it doesn't even allow Tom the affair. Instead, the woman Tom is rumored to be keeping turns out to be an escapee from a concentration camp for whom Tom is acting as a Good Samaritan.
In addition, Tom takes back a good many things he'd said earlier in the film, telling Polly he was wrong about her wealthy father, wrong about Robert Tasmin, the Ivy-League educated lawyer Polly was about to marry, calling him "a real gentleman, after all." The movie simply affirms upper-middle-class values and, in fact, makes it clear that it's better to be wealthy, even if that might have some negative effects on a marriage at first. I mean, only animal-rights activists are going to forsake those full-length mink coats that Stanwyck sports here, and some of them might even prove weak when put to the test.
The film has fine production values, though there is absolutely no sense of period detail. Everything is happening in 1948 fashions, and although the film covers fifteen years, no one ages a whit.
Stanwyck and Van Heflin are clearly too old to play the young Polly and Tom, but, once the two are married, they immediately become 40-somethings for the rest of the film. Stanwyck, Van Heflin, and the rest of the cast all do competent acting jobs. It's just that the script is so weak. Utter piffle!
The original book about a tycoon's daughter marrying a left-wing economist was one of John P. Marquand's less cheerful novels. The plot had the economist taking a high-ranking civilian job in World War II while his one-time "establishment" rival joined the military and was given a dangerous assignment. Some critics attacked the book as a smack at liberals' love of country, while its defenders saw it as an antidote to wartime stories that celebrated the "common man" as the only true patriot. The movie glides over all that serious business, changing the class conflicts from serious issues to mere impediments to true love. While preserving a considerable number of the book's situations and even large chunks of its dialogue, the movie changes everything that's important, turning the couple's serious marital problems into simple misunderstandings. The result is a mostly dull romance, with Heflin and Stanwyck showing little chemistry. It would have been better if the filmmakers had gone further and turned the story into a comedy.
John Marquand didn't deserve to have his novel turned into this film, which
was probably a vehicle for its star, Barbara Stanwyck. Mr. Marquand was a
writer whose books were popular and some of them endured the passing of
It appears that MGM asked screen writer Luther Davis to transform the novel into something that the book was not. Under the direction of Robert Z. Leonard, one gets the impression this was a movie to show us how a woman in love can throw away all the comforts and perks of her wealthy life for a man that could not make a decent living to keep her in style.
It doesn't make sense that Tom sweeps Polly off her feet by their first encounter in that "divine" little bistro in the Village, circa 1940s. Polly in furs and Tom in rags, give me a break! It would be laughable with today's audiences.
Barbara Stanwyck and Van Hefiln, by the magic of the celluloid never age; if anything they get better looking. Ms. Stanwyck was a marvelous actress with the right material, but in here, she is bogged down by a the mediocrity of the writing. Ms. Stanwyck and Mr. Heflin worked together to better results in two other films. This film has to be viewed as curiosity piece that never made it big.
Richard Hart was perfect as the stuffy Bob, the fiancee that is left behind when he can't cut the mustard. Charles Coburn also appeared in other films in which Barbara Stanwych shone, like "Lady Eve", and he is perfect as B.F. Fulton, Polly's father. He always played rich men. Margaret Lindsay has only a small part. Keenan Wynn is perfect as Marty Ainsley, Tom's friend.
On one positive note, the decor of the homes we see in the film is just "divine", to imitate what Apples would say, as are the costumes and the glossy look they gave the film.
It may be that my nine-star rating is reactionary. I added one extra
star because I thought the six that were displayed was at least one too
few.) And it may be that the apparent custom of poo-pooing this movie
has resulted from the government authorities of the time - or even the
present - and their sympathizers, finding industialist B. F. Fulton's
after dinner speech about being confined to a two-by-four room, treated
like a schoolboy and "told how to run my own business" a bit over the
Both B. F. Fulton, played by Charles Coburn, and his daughter Polly, played by Barbara Stanwyck, along with Polly's mother, represent the rich American industrial class in this film, and are drawn far more sympathetically than members of the opposing, intellectual/moralist camp. The moralist male hero of this love-story-with-timely-political-interest (which has been ineptly described as a soap opera) is no exception, as he frequently gets what he thinks are deficient moral standards of his opponents mixed up with just being a member of the opposing camp, and tends to solve his arguments by turning tail and walking out once and for all (before returning) except once notably when Barbara tells him to stay put: so much for alleged female stereotypes.
This may be the reason Van Heflin's performance is not so well liked - because of the personality problems of the character he portrays. His friend and cohort, played by Keenan Wynn, if anything, is worse, constantly making aspersions and predictions of high import about people that have no basis in fact on his radio program "There's one good thing though, he's only on 3 days a week," quips B. F. Fulton.) though he is more honest than Heflin's character, openly admitting at one point that he consciously uses his victims - with no regard for veracity of the claims he makes about them - for his own selfish ends.
It doesn't seem there can be much argument that the characters of Polly and B. F. Fulton are not played with affection by the two celebrated actors. And that of B. F. Fulton is completely devoid of any visible selfish motive, a wholly good egg. Stanwyck has curtailed her sassier, blacker side to make way for the by-birth-and-training more milque-toasty ingenue, and does so consistently. And she's good too, one slip - a request by this aristocrat with a conscious made early in the film that a friend of her jilted erstwhile fiancé engage himself in insider trading - notwithstanding: this apparently to be interpreted as an uncharacteristic youthful indiscretion.
For the most part, the three Fulton family characters represent the epitome of noble goodness and we are taken in when Fulton senior soliloquizes the vanishing of his own breed during his last appearance. According to other reviewers here, the movie uses lines from an original J. P. Marquand novel, and the many sometimes ironic and clever turns of phrase help to ingratiate these characters, increasing the high level of believability and naturalness.
Even the scenery and music seem to be something special. (No credit is given for the music in the version I saw.) From the play of the morning light in the Fultons' Park Avenue apartment, as the little blacksmith of their whimsical parlor clock hammers out the chimes of the hour, to the unflattering contrast of oppressiveness in the heavily draped and damasked dining compartment of Polly's formal custom built mansion... From the creepily groaning nonharmonic tones derivative of Wagner's Im Treibhaus, to the more exaltant reminiscence of Tristan und Isolde (for which the former was a study) heard later on - and of course the score no doubt has more to distinguish it than these often alluded to war horses of movie music genre - special care has been taken.
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.
Barbara Stanwyck plays the title role of B.F.'s Daughter, a very
wealthy heiress who marries iconoclastic liberal minded economics
professor Van Heflin. B.F. is Charles Coburn and he's one of those
people who's two initials everybody knows because he's that wealthy and
Coburn is a firm believer in Herbert Hoover's rugged individualism and he's inculcated those values in his daughter. Stanwyck falls for a man who is the antithesis of her father's values, but he's barely getting by on his professor's salary. She decides to help by using her piece of her father's fortune to send him on a lecture tour for one of his books. Heflin turns out to be a natural, but he's never to know that his wife bought him a career.
The novel was written by J.P. Marquand who is best known for those Mr. Moto mysteries. It was published at the beginning of World War II and MGM took several years to finally get it to the screen.
Rich heiresses who overpopulated the cinema in the Thirties were a dying breed of movie heroines by the time B.F.'s Daughter came out in 1948. Stanwyck however makes it work and Coburn is in most familiar surroundings as the gruff millionaire.
Van Heflin had teamed well with Stanwyck the year before in The Strange Loves Of Martha Ivers and he does well in somewhat lighter fair by comparison. Margaret Lindsay does well as Stanwyck's best friend who marries yuppie Richard Hart who goes to war. The term yuppie was not in use back then, but that is what Hart is. He proves to have the right stuff when that is questioned by Keenan Wynn.
Wynn plays a part that seems a dress rehearsal for the role of the news commentator in The Great Man. A little less bitter, but just as cynical and he's got an incredible knack for predicting events wrong.
B.F.'s Daughter is a great part for Stanwyck and a great film for her as well.
In 1932, the Great Depression has most Americans sewing buttons on
ragged clothing. Lucky to escape financial ruin is blustery nouveau
riche capitalist Charles Coburn (as Burton "B.F." Fulton). His money
never stops flowing, which keeps young Park Avenue socialite daughter
Barbara Stanwyck (as Pauline "Polly" Fulton) dripping in fur and
jewels. Daddy's little girl ditches her attorney boyfriend when she
meets apparently poverty-stricken professor Van Heflin (as Thomas "Tom"
W. Brett). They have a whirlwind romance and run away to Minnesota, but
Ms. Stanwyck's wealth threatens her relationship with Mr. Heflin...
This story features some interesting class concepts regarding the rich and the poor. Unfortunately, the characters are obtuse and the story artificial. Stanwyck and Heflin try and cry for director Robert Z. Leonard, but nobody gives "B.F.'s Daughter" any depth...
Perversely, the phony costume designs received an "Academy Award" nomination. We are boldly told the story begins in 1932, but Stanwyck is decked out in contemporary fashion. Heflin has a big tear in his vest and Keenan Wynn shows his lowly status with a silly, misshapen hat. There are no real "poor" on screen. Since Heflin is assistant professor of economics at Columbia University and Mr. Wynn's character has his own radio talk show, we can assume they are doing better than most. Romantic entanglements seem barely past an adolescent level. Still, the sets look nice and everything is photographed well, by Joseph Ruttenberg.
**** B.F.'s Daughter (3/24/48) Robert Z. Leonard ~ Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Charles Coburn, Keenan Wynn
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