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As told to a psychiatrist: Mr. Peabody, middle-aged Bostonian on vacation with his wife in the Caribbean, hears mysterious, wordless singing on an uninhabited rock in the bay. Fishing in the vicinity, he catches...a mermaid. He takes her home and, though she has no spoken language, falls in love with her. Of course, his wife won't believe that thing in the bathtub is anything but a large fish. Predictable complications follow in rather tame fashion. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
A Charming and Wistful Fantasy; Great Dialogue, and Very Fine Acting
Some postmodernists have suggested this is a dramatic film. It is a satire--the sort of film where the hero cannot fail because of his/her values, ideas and ethical self-command. The central character in this well-loved feature is an man (William Powell) who has reached the age of fifty. He has a lovely wife (Irene Hervey) but he is restless; he has lost the sense of adventure in his life, and his wife is treating him as if he were "old". Then on a fishing trip, he catches a mermaid (Ann Blyth). She cannot talk, she has a tale and lives beneath the sea; but she does not think he is old, she finds him kind, fascinating and absorbing. Of course this fabulous find upsets his staid routine and disrupts all his relationships. He has to keep the lovely young mermaid a secret; He takes her home, where she takes a bubble bath. Andrea King all-but-steals the film; she is gorgeous, on the make for him, and suspicious that he is hiding something. A highlight of the film comes when she dons a bathing suit (she is a champion swimmer and gorgeous) and investigates the mermaid tale underwater, where Blyth bites her on the leg. Clinton Sundberg, one of the best line-readers on planet, plays a man who is giving up smoking with whom Powell has droll conversations. Art Smith plays the psychiatrist to whom he confesses his find; he is also older, and has had a fantasy of his own. Ever the practical sort, Powell tries to buy half a bathing suit, with hilarious results; he also eventually has to explain the goings on to his wife; this is a character-based adult script by Nunnally Johnson adapted from Guy and Constance Jones' novel "Peabody's Mermaid"; and it makes, by my lights, an unforgettable, charming and beautiful made film. Irving Pichel directed with verve and intelligence. others in the cast include Lumsden Hare, Fred Clark, James Logan, Mary Field, Beatrice Roberts, Mary Sommerville and many more in smaller roles. The film boasts fine underwater cinematography by David Horsley and Russell Mettey's usual very fine work. Original music was composed by Robert Emmet Dolan with art direction supplied by Bernard Herzbrun and Boris Leven; the difficult set decorations were supplied by talented Russell A. Gausman and Ruby R. Leavitt with costumes designed by Grace Houston. Carmen Dirigo is credited with the film's challenging hair stylings and Bud Westmore with the makeup for Lenore the mermaid and the rest of this talented and beautifully-chosen cast (a hallmark, I suggest of Nunnally Johnsons' films, since he co-produced as well as writing the script). This is not a film about someone being old; it is a wistful and intelligent look at being human, using the fantasy of a mermaid who is decidedly real as a symbol of youth itself--Mr. Peabody's youth--in which others believe or do not depending on their attitude to selfhood and individual desert. I find this film a touching and memorable screen achievement, thanks to all concerned.
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