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Gail discovers the shocking news that she is adopted during a heated argument with her sister, Joan. With the reluctant support of her adoptive parents and baby sister, Penny, Gail goes in search of her biological mother and true identity. Written by
Dated postwar dating devolves into powerful family drama
Behind the well-woven plot of a budding high school graduate's family problems is an earthy, though somewhat stereotypical examination of a Caucasion based, middle class existence in suburban America of 1949. Ann Blyth earnestly portrays the vicissitudinous impact of a revelation about her character's childhood. The storyline backdrop comes complete with proper but sincerely well meaning parents and a beloved, part-of-the-family, African-American housekeeper and cook (portrayed with gentility and grace by Jessica Grayson in her final film role) without whose valuable, understated contributions the family's daily routine would be reduced to chaos. Finally, of course, there's the obligatory family dog, playfully short-circuiting the household.
As depicted in this typical period film people dressed more formally, even in hot weather (for whatever reasons!), with air conditioning yet to permeate even modern, well equipped homes. As a rule, practical personal dress comfort didn't prevail over formality until the 1960's.
The prolonged initial sequence showcases a wonderful nuisance of a girl (scene-stealing Natalie Wood) "helping" with the installation of a new television, the up and coming electronic marvel of the day (whose commercial success was on the verge of becoming reality, thanks in part to some price breaking discoveries that soon rendered TV sets sufficiently affordable for the masses). Boys and girls were portraying themselves while being quietly groomed for achieving good citizenship standards as defined by the generally conservative post-war period.
In "Our Very Own" personal relationships expressed themselves in ways that depicted subtle, yet significant differences from those of years to come, revealing an overall interesting and introspective perspective of the fairly tranquil, but brief period between World War II and the Korean War. The latter event broke shortly before the public release of this film in 1950. Meanwhile, as the storyline reveals, the "cold war" had already begun and, for many people, nuclear experimentation was beginning to command a scary center stage presence. Other "hot" issues of the day include McCarthy type anti-Communism (or Anti-Americanism as it was in actuality!), racial and ethnic equality and mixed sexual attitudes; but in "Our Very Own" we are deliberately steered inward, into family and personal matters, with the broad and burgeoning concerns of the day kept at bay...almost. Issues such as those mentioned above are not directly infiltrating any aspect of daily life in the treatment offered here, except for occasional inference. The period feel is thereby enhanced.
As "Our Very Own" grapples its way toward the emerging central theme of adoption, its still subtle stigmas of the times permeate the otherwise gentile facade of the featured suburbanite family. Ann Dvorak, in character, offers a fine portrayal as a birth mother as opposed to a rearing one. Her persona is carved from the "other side of the tracks" folks, but a sensitive manner prevails. She exudes pathos, yet maintains dignity for all concerned.
Now, some sixty years hence, we are treated to a time capsule view of an earlier, mostly bygone, America complete with some focal points of its day plus those things eternal that seem to pass through generations, oblivious to time and technology. The story line may be unremarkable (although it maintains interest) but the real and stylized adaptations of Middle American life at the time are enhanced by fine performances that lend a glimpse into aspects of our culture that were probably at least partly present at mid-century past.
One acoustic footnote: "Our Very Own" also concentrates on excellent sound and sensitive background music. An Oscar nomination was achieved for Best Sound Recording.
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