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Not At All Your Typical 1958 Soap Opera
frankwiener4 February 2018
Peter3120 wrote his review 18 years ago to this very day (!) and asked for comments, pro and con. Well, Peter, if you are still out there in IMDb Land and even though this review will probably never be read with the "new and improved" IMDb user review structure, I agree that this is among the most under-rated films of all times. The acting, especially by Jean Simmons and Dan O'Herlihy, was superb, and the supporting cast lived up to the high standards that the two leads established. I have witnessed this many times before in the case of very good movies. The leading actors set a very high standard, and the supporting cast becomes inspired by them in delivering the very best performances possible. This achievement must also be credited to the outstanding skills of first-rate directors such as Mervyn Leroy.

The script by Eileen and Robert Bassing is very intelligent, even if it did momentarily succumb to a hackneyed form of soap opera, unless every New England town is really a Peyton Place in disguise, which is a possibility. I couldn't endure the rough climate long enough to know for sure.

Speaking of New England, I loved the on site locations during the frigid winter in the Greater Boston suburban towns of Marblehead and Medford, Massachusetts and in Boston itself during the 1958 Christmas season. For me, it allowed a glimpse of the past era of a city that has undergone substantial and dramatic changes since that time. I couldn't understand, however, why Tufts University couldn't be identified by its actual name while Harvard could. Is it because one gave the producers permission while the other didn't want its prestigious academic reputation to be tarnished by the abundance of smothering, academic stuffiness and pomposity as depicted here?

What I like most about this film is its complex and sensitive portrayal of the subject of mental illness, especially considering its 1950's setting. Unfortunately, all victims of mental illness do not enjoy the advantage of having such wonderful, unselfish friends as Charlotte Bronn had in Jake Diamond and Hamilton Gregory, who were both created with very human, multifaceted flaws in their own right. And how many patients of mental illness look like Jean Simmons, even on a bad hair day? Admittedly, I am mesmerized by the woman in almost every picture where she appears, going way back to her portrayal of Stella in "Great Expectations". I very much appreciated the human complexity of nearly all of the characters, both major and minor. Even the mostly unsympathetic character of Mattie, the maid, wasn't so simple. "Nothing ever happens to me," says she. Could you delve into that view of yourself a bit more? We want to know more about that, Mattie.
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Endlessly rambling story with no resolution (real or implied)
kijii17 November 2016
This movie endlessly rambled for me.

It was painful for me to watch a woman (Jean Simmons) trying so hard to appear normal when everything she did demonstrated that she still was very paranoid after being released from a mental institution. While her husband (Dan O'Herlihy) seemed to have problems of his own in relating to her, one can't help but sympathize with him because she really did have problems.

Then there is the crazy chord in the background music, signaling to us that "she is crazy now."

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. plays a young philosophy teacher, living and boarding with the family while temporarily working at the local college with the O'Herlihy. Somehow, he relates to Simmons's character, and even seems to accept her abnormal behavior as normal. It is good to be supportive, but he only seems to encourage the dysfunction occurring throughout the household.

After watching this movie and trying to understand the story, I only walked away thinking I had wasted my time trying to understand the family dynamics that made no sense to me whatsoever.

What was my take away from this movie?
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You're A Tough Broad, Charlotte Bronn
jdsuggs22 October 2016
This is a strong drama built entirely on Jean Simmons' outstanding performance as a woman recovering from a breakdown and searching for love and a home, only to find her own strength instead. Director Mervyn LeRoy and novelist/screenwriter Eileen Bassing confidently put the entire burden on Simmons, who appears in nearly every scene, and the actress delivers a character who continually defies and exceeds the expectations of those around her, and the viewer.

We meet Charlotte Bronn as she is returning from a long stay in a mental hospital following a nervous breakdown that included episodes of violence and paranoia. She's shaky and vulnerable and painfully self-aware. But even before she first appears at the end of the long hallway, walking towards the camera and into her new life, those closest to her have already begun to let her down.

We quickly begin to learn the source of her downfall, but Simmons doesn't give us a victim and the film doesn't back away from real mental illness- the portrayal of Charlotte's recovery and gradual tilt towards relapse is surprisingly sharp and modern.

"Home Before Dark" is understated, in an almost documentary style, more smart than clever, but the energy and pacing are crisp enough that the film always seems within one twist of becoming a noir thriller or Hitchcock suspense. Charlotte is desperate for acceptance, her husband's love, and the truth about her marriage, all of which are withheld, and we naturally expect a handsome man- any of several on hand- to step forward and solve her problems, either romantically or as a confidant. The film's value comes from its steady refusal to take those easy paths.

The pathos is tastefully understated but powerful nonetheless- Charlotte says she's not beautiful, she says she knows her husband doesn't love her and that she's not worthy of love- and her husband simply fails to contradict her. The film is, among other things, a relentless study of one spouse failing another.

We root for Charlotte Bronn as she stumbles- her story never does. This is one of Simmons' best.
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Like a step-by-step primer on how to make your wife lose her mind!
MartinHafer5 September 2016
When the film begins, you learn that Charlotte Bronn (Jean Simmons) had been in a mental hospital for a year and was ready for discharge. Oddly, it also seems as if there's been no family therapy or plans for after discharge...a bit of a mistake in the film, I think, as I cannot imagine the hospital doing this. Apparently, Charlotte's husband, Arnold (Dan O'Herlihy) also had not visited her during this year AND he has no plans on changing the family structure which existed when Charlotte lost her mind and attacked her step-sister, Joan (Rhonda Fleming). Yet, oddly, she's discharged. I think it would have made more sense having the staff argue with Arnold and mention these problems---and he checked her out against medical advice. This portion of the movie could have been constructed better.

When Charlotte returns home, you can almost instantly see what drove her off the deep end. Her step-mother (Mabel Albertson) is god- awful--a controlling know-it-all who would have probably gotten Mother Theresa to attack her after being around her more than five minutes! Albertson made a career out of playing these awful mothers...and anyone who knows 60s TV will instantly recognize her. As for the step- sister, there are hints through the course of the movie that Joan and Arnold MIGHT be carrying on behind Charlotte's back...or at least Arnold simply didn't care that Charlotte might think this. He was certainly very cold and very distant throughout the film. In many, many ways, the story seems like a primer to teach family members how to keep mentally ill loved ones mentally ill or drive them over the edge. Is there any hope for poor Charlotte and this kooky bunch? And what about the new boarder, Jake (Efram Zimbalist Jr.)?

As I was at one time a mental health therapist, I see that the film has an excellent point to make. Returning to the exact same unhealthy environment is a sure way for disaster if you have psychological or addiction issues. Changing the family or leaving them entirely when they are resistant to change is something most decent therapists would consider working on with their clients as they face discharge. Because of this, I really appreciate the movie and it talks about things rarely talked about in films about mental illness. It's often NOT just the mentally ill person that is sick but the family structure.

As far as entertainment value goes, this film is very enjoyable and late in the film you really begin to wonder what is actually happening. Is Charlotte losing her mind or is Arnold trying to drive her over the edge...or both? My only quibble (other than the one mentioned in the first paragraph) is that the film went on too long and the portion consisting of them going to visit Harvard didn't seem to quite fit with the rest of the movie. Still, very compelling and different..and the very end was great.
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Overlong, with Compensations
dougdoepke30 March 2015
Charlotte (Simmons) leaves the mental hospital convinced she's cured. Trouble is she returns home to a distant husband (O'Herlihy), an overbearing step-mother (Anderson), and a glamorous step-sister (Fleming). The next 2-hours plus shows why she had a breakdown in the first place. So now she's returned home to the same conditions, but will she be able to avoid another breakdown, or will her renewed confidence see her through.

The movie is both overlong and repetitious. Still, it's smoothly directed and too slick to be lumbering. Simmons delivers an affecting performance in the central role. Of course, we see before Charlotte does that her only salvation requires leaving conditions she can't change. By and large, Simmons handles these changes without the pitfall of over-emoting. For example, the party scene where Charlotte intentionally embarrasses herself and those around her amounts to a dramatic highpoint and is poignant to watch.

A revealing subplot involves the incestuous nature of the small college town where Charlotte and family live. That too becomes an important part of Charlotte's mental condition. Because Charlotte's in about every scene, we don't see much of the faculty maneuvering where Arnold causes Charlotte's friend Diamond (Zimbalist) to lose his teaching contract. Diamond's being Jewish also doesn't help in what is likely an anti-Semitic community. At the same time, I'm still not sure why Dunne's character Hamilton Gregory is in the story (perhaps I missed something). Editing him out of an overlong movie would have shortened the runtime without sacrificing plot.

Overall the result is something of a mixed bag that does manage to rise above the level of soap-opera, but still requires some patience. Plus, there's that wonderfully apt title that just about sums up Charlotte's challenge.
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No Rush to Come Home After Dark **12
edwagreen16 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Another case where the mental institution did not believe the patient. Jean Simmons comes home from the funny farm supposedly cured of her mental illness. Dan O'Herlihy is excellent as her cold professor-husband who harbors love for her step-sister, Rhonda Fleming-who is definitely miscast here. Better to have her in Bob Hope or western films with that flaming red hair. As a blond in a black and white film, she looked utterly ridiculous.

I thought that Mabel Albertson as the doting step- mother would be very effective here. Instead, she is rarely used. Efraim Zimbalist Jr. is also wasted here. As the professor and border to Simmons and O'Herlihy, his Jake Diamond character is detested by the other professors due to his Jewish faith. The author of this book should have consulted Laura Z. Hobson, the latter wrote "Gentleman's Agreement."

This is basically a story of repressed love, and a college faculty that needs plenty of guidance for themselves.
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1950's Conservative Movie Making at its Most Mundane
LeonLouisRicci10 December 2014
This Stiff, Stodgy, and Stale Film is All Jean Simmons. She Completely Dominates this Cold and Ambiguous Movie. But, Truth be Told, there isn't Much Else Here that is Anything Beyond Mundane.

It is a Very Good Example of the Hollywood Studio System in the 1950's. Whether by Choice, Cultural Conventions, the Still in Force Hays Code, or the Political Atmosphere of the Decade, Most Movies in the Eisenhower Era were Imitation Assembly Line, Take No Chances Boring.

There is Virtually Nothing in this Soaper that is Exceptional in Terms of Story or Artistry or Production. It is Film Conservatism at it's Most Pedestrian. The Acting is Outstanding by Jean Simmons with Her Distant Eyes and Icy Stare that Reflects a State of Mind that Could be Seen as Pathological or Just Ultra-Sensitive.

The Script is Never Resolute and that is Fine at First but it Never Brings Things Home and Viewers are Left to Read Between the Lines. Rhonda Fleming is just Stand About Attractive and Her Beauty is Wasted Here and She Says or Does Very Little. It is the Peripheral Characters that are the Most Interesting.

Overall. Typical and Average Movie from the Era with the Powerful Simmons Performance the Only Thing Remarkable.
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Strong Performances, Shallow Plot
drorawk3 December 2014
Jean Simmons is luminous, despite attempts to dowdify her. All other actors are strong. This is in spite of the silly plot. Never understood why Charlotte fell in love with her future husband, why she continued to love him later, why he didn't divorce her and marry Joan (since he does not seem to be after her money). Did someone try to drug her? Did she become better after she stopped drinking the supposedly doctored drinks? Was there a liaison between the husband and Joan? Was the mother malicious or just a loud, insensitive woman? Most of all - why is it that Hollywood movies always have a nice, sensitive guy waiting in the wings for the mistreated, at-risk heroine in its suspense movies? (See Gaslight, Midnight Lace, this movie, and many others.)
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Somewhat disappointing
bomboogie3 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I had never seen this movie before it appeared on TCM last night (Dec. 2, 2014). These types of stories rarely interest me, but this one did. Although I tuned in after it started, something drew me to it, and I watched it through. There didn't seem to be much of a plot, just some loosely-connected events.

Just as I was beginning to wonder how it would end, I checked the time, and there was less than ten minutes to go. This increased my curiosity on how it would end because the story didn't seem to be going anywhere at that point. I was very disappointed; it just sort of ended, leaving me hanging.
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Simmons hits it out of the park . . .
purrlgurrl20 December 2013
A terrific actress, Jean Simmons never quite reached the top rung of Hollywood stardom the way her contemporaries did (e.g., Elizabeth Taylor or even Kim Novak). Tiny (in an era of big buxom beauties), dark, intense, and British, she had somewhat limited appeal among American audiences. And now, she's often overlooked or forgotten when we think of actresses of her era. But, looking back at much of her work, it's clear she was probably the finest screen actress of the lot working in Hollywood in her time.

This is nowhere more apparent than this film where Simmmons brings some emotional truth to every frame she's in. She elevates even the most maudlin dialog she must deliver in what is essentially a potboiler with the intensity she brings to her performance. She plays it like it's Shakespearean tragedy, and is simply heart-breaking as well as mesmerizing as a woman desperately struggling to recover from a breakdown and save her failing marriage.

It's truly sad this film has been largely forgotten because Jean Simmons and her performance shouldn't be.
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Thoughtful Performance by Jean Simmons
JLRMovieReviews3 April 2013
Jean Simmons goes home after being treated for depression, but is her husband ready for her? And, her sister? Dan O'Herlihy and Rhonda Fleming star in these supporting roles, but the film belongs to Jean Simmons as she tries to find herself. Efrem Zimbalist. Jr. is good as a boarder in the house and she finds a consoling and understanding friend in him. In fact, Jean Simmons and Efrem Zimbalist played off each other very well. But, Dan's character was horrible to her and I couldn't stand the way she was treated. All in all, I loved this film and that it was extremely well made and acted by all. If you get a chance to see "Home before Dark," watch it and see for yourself just how great an actress Jean Simmons really was.
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Not what it seems
eigaeye28 August 2012
Producer-director Mervyn LeRoy knows how to trail a false scent or two across this story; we receive hints of other films (Gaslight, for example, or almost any Hitchcock) and begin to wonder. Keeping us doubting, and keeping us outside the vulnerable and troubled main character, played superbly by Jean Simmons, we are left in a strange, low-key state of suspense right to the end. Is she mad, is she being manipulated for some nefarious end? Are her family conspirators or just unfeeling? If the latter, who is to blame? We want to rescue this character, we have in the story two likable men who seem to be candidates for white knights. Again, LeRoy manipulates our expectations of a melodramatic plot twist, a catharsis of the sort we have seen in those other films, in which all will be revealed. But, without spoiling the story, this is a different sort of film. Between the first scene and the second to last scene, we are held in a kind of suspended animation, together with the Simmons character. It is only very late in the film, however, that LeRoy lets the scales drop from our eyes.

Some may find the other family members too unsympathetic, early on especially. If there is a weakness in the formula, this is it. For me, the powerful sequence on Christmas Eve in Boston – the shopping jaunt, the party and the confrontation back at the hotel - settles such doubts as exist.

The ledger is more than balanced, in any case, by a good script, fine black and white photography, a convincing portrayal of a hidebound and catty faculty town (politics has nothing on academe), sensitive direction by LeRoy and, especially, Jean Simmons at her considerable best. This film deserves more admirers. It is that quietly spoken guest at the party who, if you spend some time listening, has more to say than the usual cinema windbags.
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Pretty pointless and too long
robert-temple-115 December 2011
This is an inferior attempt at a film noir, directed by Mervyn LeRoy, who really should not have bothered. The film stars Jean Simmons, whose attractiveness is ruined for most of the film by the most odious wig imaginable. She has a difficult role to play, for the script is not very good, and one minute she is meant to be sane and the next minute she is meant to be crazy. Admittedly, this is true of many people, but in films we are meant to keep things simple so that the audience can follow the plot. This plot wanders around in a daze like a drunken script writer. I must confess myself to have been deeply annoyed by Dan O'Herlihy, who plays the indifferent husband of Jean Simmons. Not only can he not act very well, but when he tries, he is often more offensive than when he is not trying. I would have preferred him to sit in a corner and let the story take place without him. Rhonda Fleming is present as a flaming femme fatale, and although we cannot see her red hair because the film is in black and white, she blazes nevertheless. She plays a most unpleasant, vain, pinhead of a woman who glides along on her rather too obvious glamour like a ship on a calm sea of soapsuds. Efrem Zimbalist Junior falls for Jean Simmons but does nothing about it except look earnest and offer his friendship. His father was much better at playing the violin than he was at playing the heartstrings. Poor Jean Simmons has come out of an insane asylum where she spent an entire year without treatment. Now, upon returning home, she has what can only be called a delayed reaction, one year delayed to be precise. She begins to realize just how intolerable her home situation really is. Or maybe she watched this film, which is why she looks so uncomfortable. A surprising number of people think this film is wonderful, so it clearly speaks to others, and that shows just how different we all are. But would so many people say how they loved the film if Jean Simmons had not been in it?
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Simmons is excellent in overlong and talky soap opera
highwaytourist2 October 2011
The film begins well, with Jean Simmons being released from a state mental institution after suffering a mental breakdown a year before. Her ambitious university professor husband drives her home through wintry New England and arrives home. She lives in a large home with her selfish, indifferent husband, her noisy stepmother, and her vain, glamorous stepsister, whom she envies and had suspected of having an affair with her husband. In addition, there is a boarder, a young Jewish professor who works for her husband, and a crotchety, condescending maid. Everyone is polite, but the issues that led to her breakdown are still in the home and she also has to deal with gossipy neighbors. Then, it seems that the story is at a loss. The film is overwrought, to be honest. Even with the people problems she faces, Simmons' life is better than those of many people- she's attractive, has inherited money, lives in a beautiful, two-story home, can afford a servant to prepare meals and clean the home, and she has no children to take care of. I couldn't help if boredom and too much time on her hands wasn't one of her problems. Everyone talks about the same thing over and over again and the film could have been thirty minutes shorter without losing anything. It becomes like a merry-go-round of talk. Then I have to talk about the music. Max Steiner is a brilliant composer, but his music is way over the top for this personal and intimate film. Something much more low-key was needed. Two things save this film. One is the excellent locations, which are filmed in the dead of winter and make a perfect backdrop. The other is Simmons' performance, which capture a woman trapped in a marriage and family that are good in all the official ways but are lacking in all the ways that matter. She makes us care about her character even when her behavior is exasperating, which is quite an accomplishment.
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The Music from Home Before Dark
jhminnyc28 June 2011
I was amused while watching this suspenseful film to notice that whole passages of the music used were lifted straight from Warner's great Bette Davis film, "Now Voyager". Since it was a Warner's film I suppose they had the right. I noticed that Max Steiner, the composer from the Davis film, was given no credit for the music that was used in this film. Seems a shame, but I suppose that's Hollywood. Still, this is a good film with a fine cast of stars and familiar character actors. I enjoyed the location photography and the chilled atmosphere of the film is enhanced by the obvious dead of winter scenery. I mainly just wanted to comment on the music, however, it just surprised me to hear such a familiar score used over again in this film.
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Jealousy between sisters is nothing new.
Michael O'Keefe15 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Jean Simmons stars as Charlotte Bronn in this psychological drama directed by Mervyn LeRoy. She returns home to her college professor husband Arnold(Dan O'Herlihy)after spending a year in a mental institution. The home is shared with stepmother Inez(Mabel Albertson)and stepsister Joan(Rhonda Fleming). It seems Charlotte is possibly returning to the same much rumored situation blamed on her mental breakdown...an assumed romance between her husband and Joan. Jealousy is once again creeping into Charlotte's thinking; she tries distracting these thoughts with a friendship with a young professor(Efrem Zimbalist Jr.), who is dealing with baggage of his own. This movie easily brings mixed emotions; anger, unpleasantness, sorrow and even hope. Supporting cast includes: Stephen Dunne, Joan Weldon and Joanna Barnes.
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very well done, thank you TCM channel...
MarieGabrielle12 April 2011
In the U.S. it is very hard to find quality classic film programming. Thank you TCM for showing films, even while less popular with intrigue, interesting actors and talented writers with realistic sub-plots.

I have always liked Jean Simmons. She is classic and understated, sort of the less blatant Elizabeth Taylor, from films of this era. My mother, a stage actress also taught me many of her acting qualities, and we viewed several of her earlier films.

In this film there is the noir illusion to the fact that Simmons has been in an "asylum" her husband visits her as she is released, and all seems to be well.

There are some very effective interesting scenes of the New England coast (Boston, or perhaps Maine as it is very rustic yet beautiful). The cinematography itself hints at the frozen, isolated atmosphere she, with her illness and her distant family members have endured.

I found it interesting that in her "manic" period the director had her look more like a Marilyn Monroe type,(Monroe at the aegis of her career this time period in film). Bleached hair, over the top gold lame dress etc. The scene when she has another "breakdown" is Christmas eve, when she hasn't been drinking but merely shops too much. Her hostile soon to be ex-husband labels her insane at this juncture.

In the end there is a very intriguing conspiracy and I will not ruin it for the reader by delineating. Suffice to say Simmons is amazing here, beautiful, tragic, then grounded and foreboding as she learns the truth about her step-family. If you enjoy his film you will also love Gene Tierney in "Leave Her To Heaven", and possibly Bette Davis in "Dead Ringer". Both psycho-dramas of the era and well worth watching. 10/10.
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Fine Simmons Performance
adamshl12 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Jean Simmons stars in this psychological romantic drama, and is absolutely radiant in the role. She dominates every scene with deeply felt and conveyed emotion. The part is a difficult one, in which great demands are made. Simmons triumphs.

In terms of the plot, I was left wondering about whether the husband and the half sister really did have some sort of affair. What surprised me was that in the end, this question was still unresolved. They both vehemently denied it; still, the casting of one of the screen's most alluring beauties, Rhonda Fleming, as the half sister may say something.

It is this ambiguity that diminishes the film from achieving a higher status. On the other hand, from the writer's point of view, such clarity may have reduced interest and intrigue.

In the end, "Home Before Dark" is well worth watching for its fine acting and production values.
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Ever been cheated on by your spouse/s.o.? Then you'll appreciate watching this movie.
rosyrnrn11 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
If you have ever loved someone, but they fall 'out of love' with you, or were never really in love with you, and then they cheat on you and everyone denies it, don't you feel a little lost and doubt your sanity? Of course! Especially if you are younger or inexperienced in love, and thought that you could love someone enough to save the relationship. It doesn't always work out that way, and we end up in excruciating pain and humiliation.

That is what this movie is about. As spectators to Jean Simmon's character, we can't help but feel the despair, neglect, abandonment, deceit and more that her 'loved ones' heap upon her.

Too bad I didn't have any Efrem Zimbalist Jr waiting for me when my first husband tossed away our marriage. And thank heavens the movie has a good ending. I couldn't bear it if it ended any other way. Watch it! (It was on TCM today, April 11, 2011)
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A most see and most save film of gigantic proportions!
dolphinspatrol26 January 2010
This film is one of Ms. Jean Simmons most accomplished dramatic performances. It's a film that's been lost for unknown reasons but hopefully with Turner Classic Movies eventually it could be save and shown once again! At the time of it's release Warner Brothers Studios as customary didn't appreciated nor valued the range and talent of Ms. Simmons this screen gem shows both the best and the worst of human character,predisposition and the greed that will overrule all senses of decency, family and humanity!

The whole cast gives very convincing performances specially Rhonda Fleming in her wicket best!
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Another Mentally Unstable Characterisation from Jean Simmons
howardmorley23 October 2009
I rated this film 6/10 and agree with most of the comments of Neil Doyle above and some of the more negative ones.This is the fifth time I have seen JS play on film mentally unstable characters, the others being: Ophelia in Olivier's Oscar winning (1948) Hamlet; with her husband of the time, Stuart Granger in "Footsteps in the Fog (1955); with Trevor Howard in "The Clouded Yellow" (1951); with Robert Mitchum in "Angel Face"(1952).Evidentally producers considered JS specialised in these troubled parts.Oh it was a terribly long film at 136 minutes and it was the first time I wished the film editor could have snipped say 30 minutes off the overall time.We had already got the message long before JS started her long overdue mental counter attack versus her husband and step-family.

Immediately I saw JS in an early scene at the mental hospital sporting an obviously artificial blond wig, I irrationally felt less sympathy for her character Charlotte.With her natural beautiful dark brunette looks, the blond wig did not sit well with JS's lovely darkly arched eyebrows.How refreshing then to see Charlotte later in the film with some almost Liz Taylor type dark raven hair and looking more natural.JS looked ravishing!Yes it was a wordy film but the words did not personally resonate with me as they could have been said in fewer sentences.
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A Superb Forgotten Gem
pmmgbob29 September 2009
I first saw this on a local Boston movie anthology show called "Adult Theatre" when I was 13, in 1964. My very liberal parents not only let me watch it -- they had seen it in in its first theatrical run -- but dug up a copy of the book for me, which had been a minor best seller in 1957. I purchased a bootleg tape of it years ago which, mercifully, is complete, and I must say, it is a wonderful film. The novel and film deal with similar issues to Sylvia Plath's 1960 novel "The Bell Jar," dealing as they do with a young woman being perceived as mad because she wants to live her own life. In the hands of a George Cukor this would have been a great movie; as it is, directed by old reliable warhorse Mervyn LeRoy, it is still very good. Rhonda Fleming is suitably insensitive and conventional as the voluptuous step-sister to the heroine, Charlotte, and Jean Simmons -- as always -- is incandescent, rising, as she always did, far above the material. Efrem Zimbalist is a fine second lead, and Dan O'Herlihy is wonderfully smarmy as the proper husband lusting after his sister-in -law. REALLY good film, and it is enjoyable to see on film the Boston of my childhood.
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Suspenseful, depressing, but never dull. A great story & film.
donarthur42-12 January 2008
Each actor/actress perfectly cast for his/her role. Arnold, the cold, loveless husband, aloof yet kissing up to his colleagues at the college (in the movie Ballou Hall is in reality on the Medford campus of Tufts University) to assure his promotion. Charlotte's house, warm, cozy, nicely furnished, typically old New England upscale. Hamilton Gregory, the lovable drunk, crazy about "Charl" and the smooth, kindly Jake Diamond who also loves Charlotte. Inez, Joan and Mattie, the female antagonists, perfectly played. I remember the eerie Danvers Mental Hospital up on a hill on old route one from when I was a kid living in Massachusetts. A shame this movie has never been available on VHS or DVD. I have an old copy I taped many years ago from a local TV station, uncut but with a few rough spots where I edited out commercials. Would like to obtain a better uncut copy and have made into a DVD, but legal problems rear their ugly heads. Warner Bros never responds to my e-mail inquiries about this Mervyn LeRoy film from 1958. Another interesting note, despite their apparent affluence, Arnold drives an ordinary black, 1954 Ford V-8 Fordor Sedan (Crestline or Customline)...nothing flashy. Charlotte Bronn's house (2 Crockett St) is the old "Lafayette House" in Marblehead, MA and is located at the corner of Hooper and Union Sts. (2 Union St). It contains 13 total rooms, 5 bedrooms, 4 baths and in 2003 its assessed value was $1,001,700.
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Tentative and tepid...
moonspinner5518 August 2007
Jean Simmons as a mentally fragile woman returning home to her dysfunctional family after a stay in an institution. Simmons, a very samey actress, played a lot of these troubled types, women with see-sawing emotions (and the other characters' reactions to her are always the same in every circumstance: shock or surprise at her indignation at being treated like a patient, and using her bursts of coherent anger against her as proof that she's still not right in the head). The picture, beautifully filmed in black-and-white on atmospheric New England locations, is unfortunately stuck on some kind of dreary merry-go-round, with Simmons seeing the insanity around her but unable to pinpoint it to others. When you have only one character on-screen pulling for herself, struggling against a tide of absurdities, the results can be frustrating. Director Mervyn LeRoy is sensitive to the heroine, and writers Eileen and Robert Bassing are exceptionally careful with this provocative milieu (and, to their credit, the film isn't dated from a medical standpoint), but the movie hasn't much to say about mental incapacitation; its goal ultimately is to be a tough soaper for female audiences (with Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. as a possible Prince). ** from ****
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I want to add this movie to my collection...
ital5515 August 2007
This movie is an outstanding example of a person who triumphs over what for many of us would be insurmountable odds. Jean Simmons' portrayal of Charlotte -- a young, attractive woman who has been made to feel inferior to her stepsister, and whose mind is manipulated to the point that she actually believes that SHE'S responsible for her own breakdown -- and worse yet, that she's "imagining" that her stepsister is in love with her husband! I've also had the pleasure of reading Eileen Bassing's incredible novel, that, aside from a few changes, was accurately brought to life on the silver screen. I attempted to record this movie off cable several years ago, but due to setting my VCR incorrectly, recorded only 3/4 of the movie. I have been searching for a copy of "Home Before Dark" on either VHS or DVD ever since. If anyone has a lead for me in this regard, I'd love to hear from him/her. I highly recommend this gem of a movie to anyone wanting to curl up and watch an intelligently written, compelling drama!
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