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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.
The man is William Powell, reaching the age of 50 [supposedly a land mark in
a man's life] and feeling in low spirits with still such an attractive wife,
played by the attractive Irene Hervey, snags a beautiful mermaid while out
on a fishing spree. Of course, he is all in a dither to have caught this
delectable sea creature, played with such lovely and simple sincerity by Ann
Blyth, that he proceeds to bring her home, placing her in the bath tub,
where she takes a bubble bath.
Mr. Powell is wonderful in these type of semi-comedy films where he can show his sensitive side as well as his impeccable timing of high class comedy. He steals the film, along with Miss Blyth, fresh from her scene stealing scenes as the bad girl in MILDRED PIERCE, who never speaks a word, but does some very intricate underwater swimming, including a water ballet that would make Esther Williams jealous. However, Miss Blyth had a fish tail attached to her.
Other cast members include Andrea King as a delicious woman out on the make [yes, she swims and sings] Clinton Sundberg cast in a very funny role of a man trying to give up smoking and Art Smith as the psychiatrist who examines Powell for possible lunacy in having met a mermaid only to reveal later that he, himself, had visions of a small ice skater who proceeded to skate across the window shade. Hmmmmm! Watch for another funny scene in a ladies' apparel shop when our hero requests from the saleslady, played wonderfully by Mary Field, for half a bathing suit.
This is a first rate small film, directed by Irving Pichel and written by Nunnally Johnson, made in the 40s, when films were an escape. And that's exactly what it does. Charms the tail right off of you.
This film was passed over by the critics when it came out. Many of them
perceived it as empty and without humor.
The film is actually both funny and touching. It depicts the desire of Mr. Peabody to find that he is still alive and has a reason for living. The enchantment which the beautiful young mermaid brings to him fulfills this desire. She affirms that he is still a man who can be loved and needed.
If you wish to be charmed not only by the lovely little mermaid but also by an interesting psychological study of aging and life itself, see this film. And you will also end up believing in mermaids -- as I do.
I've only seen this movie a couple of times as it seems it was hardly ever shown on television and I don't know why it was so overlooked. It's not a big film and is a typical escapism fantasy fun film that were so popular in the 1940's but it's well done and deserves a look. William Powell whose days as a leading man were waning plays a man who is turning 50 and going into a mid-life crisis (Powell was in reality 56) so while on a seaside vacation with his wife away, he snags a mermaid while out fishing. A beautiful mermaid, played by the 20 year old Ann Blyth who in 1948 was breaking away from teen roles with this film and two others released that year, A Woman's Vengeance and Another Part of the Forest. This is adapted from the Constance and Guy Jones novel Peabody's Mermaid by noted screenplay writer Nunnaly Johnson who wrote The Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road and The Three Faces of Eve. Versitle director Irving Pichel who worked in comedy, drama, film noir, westerns and sci-fi and did such films as The Most Dangerous Game, Tomorrow is Forever, They Won't Believe Me and had just come off the sentimental The Miracle of the Bells, directs. Proliffic cinematographer Russell Metty photographs with underwater sequences filmed by respected visual effects photographer David S. Horsley. Irene Hervey and Andrea King are also in the cast. Ann Blyth looks beautiful and makes one of the best on screen mermaids ever in an unusual role. I would give this an 8.0 out of 10.
This little-known film is a delightfully whimsical fable about male menopause, although the term didn't exist when it was made. William Powell, unwilling to face the encroachment of old age, receives the gift of a visitation from an altogether fetching mermaid, who sparks the diminishing flames of his youthful ardor. Powell is simply wonderful in the role, as he is in anything, as Maltin so rightly observes. This is a charming, touching, and, in the end, poignant tale.
I have wanted to see this film for many years now and have been awaiting its release on DVD. It is a funny and whimsical film and I have seen it many times growing up. Mr. Peabody and The Mermaid is a film that was shown quite often as I was growing up, but I haven't seen it for years. Very funny movie and I can't wait until someone gets it out on DVD. This film was any young boys dream come true, to go out and catch a beautiful mermaid and to bring her home was such a wonderful fantasy. I rate this as one of my all time favorite films and can't wait until its long over due release on DVD. I have often tried to find a VHS copy and have not been able to do so. Perhaps it will appear soon.
Slightly bizarre little '40's comedy about a middle-aged married man's
mid-life crisis solved by the discovery of a young mermaid while fishing in
William Powell (The Thin Man series) carries the picture on his charm alone and Ann Blyth (Veda in Mildred Pierce) makes a very cute and seductive sea creature. Some droll set pieces -Peabody's attempt to purchase a swim top for his catch, the various encounters with the busy-body's who come to snoop- work quite nicely and Powell actually creates some genuine moments of heartfelt desire but it runs out of steam before long, turns dark, then ends with a thud.
Regardless, the film is a harmless little buried treasure and more than worth a look.
Funny. Thoughtful. Great script. Incredible dialog. Wonderfully cast.
You might guess that I like this film. William Powell has never been as warm and funny. Ann Blyth is every man's unattainable beauty. And Nunnally Johnson has never written a better script. This is high comedy with a heart.
I cannot imagine a more perfect cast. Even the minor roles hold their own.
There are many movies we see when young that don't hold up as well as we get older. This one gets even better. If you can't find a copy of it, then petition AMC or TCM to broadcast it. You won't be sorry you did.
I'm not normally a fan of old movies, especially the B&W variety, but being
a lover and collector of mermaids, I decided to check this movie out on AMC.
I found the story absolutely delightful. Wm. Powell is so gentle and earnest in the role of Mr. Peabody, and almost as sweet as the lovely young mermaid, Lenore.
I found the set at the Peabody home with the fish pond and underwater grotoe where the mermaid lived to be much like the enchanted world I'd love to live in as my mermaid alter-ego, Sirena.
I found myself wishing for a colorized version of the movie.
As a girl of 9 I saw Mr Peabody and the Mermaid and was blown away by
it. It stayed in my memory as a mysterious and haunting film, with her
song still ringing in my ears 56 years later.
Luckily I found out that my TV/video is compatible with the NTSC system.(There is no DVD made as far as I know.)
So through the magic of E-bay I bought the video from someone in America, who posted it to me in Australia. Tonight I played it. I saw that the humor of it went over my head as a child, but I still enjoyed it immensely. How divine and delightful is Anne Blythe! Loved her also in Rose Marie and The Student Prince.
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