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Eighteen-year-old Esther has been deaf and blind since the accident which killed her mother. Wealthy Margaret Landi, a native of Esther's village in Ireland, is talked into helping to educate and possibly heal Esther. Margaret grows to love Esther as a daughter, but finds Esther's innocence threatened by sleazy promoters and her own sleazy ex-husband. Radiant performance by Heather Sears. Based on a book that nearly had Helen Keller's co-workers suing for libel due to perceived parallels between Carlo Landi and the husband of Annie Sullivan. Written by
I don't think Joan Crawford ever did a "message" movie, but this is the closest to one that I could think of. She is an American do-gooder who comes across the title character, a deaf/blind/mute Italian girl, traumatized by the death of her parents in an explosion. Rather than leave her in an institution, Joan takes her in. She teaches her how to communicate, then at the advice of friends, she begins a fundraiser for schools for similarly handicapped children. Troublesome ex-husband Rossanno Brazzi comes back, and at first, seems eager to help. However, his greed takes over, and before you know it, he is skimming from the funds.
When you think of Crawford films of the 1950's, melodramatic classics like "Harriett Craig", "Sudden Fear", "Johnny Guitar", and "Queen Bee" come to mind. This is probably the best script of this era for Joan, and she wisely chooses to let the script do the talking, not her shoulder pads. The film takes a sympathetic look at those not able to speak for themselves, and one good person who goes out of her way to make a difference until greed enters her life once again. Brazzi, suave and dashing, makes a convincing transition from seemingly noble to selfish and greedy snake who takes advantage of the girl in a very horrible and disgusting way. With no dialogue, only a frown, tears, or smiles to express her emotions, Heather Sears is quite good. There are some sequences which reak of Capra's "Miracle Woman" or the real-life Aimee Semple McPherson, but it is a storyline which stands up on its own. The tragic twist towards the end is heartbreaking; Crawford's sacrifice is perhaps her most noble in films.
There is one memorable scene where Crawford's secretary, fired by Brazzi, tells Crawford she can't come back. Few words are used in her explanation of why, but what she says is moving and honest. It was a very touching scene, and it made me think about the abuse of funds in charitable causes. Another thing-Leonard Maltin described this film as "unintentionally funny in spots". I just have to say that is so not true in this film. There may be light-hearted sequences, but there is nothing "unintentionally funny" here at all.
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