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Norman Z. McLeod
This is an extraordinary film. Based on a novel by Margaret Kennedy and a play by Kennedy and Basil Dean, this is a story about love between a teenaged girl and an adult composer.
Tessa Sanger (Victoria Hopper in her film debut) is a teenager living with her extended family of artsy Bohemians in the Austrian Alps. She has several sisters and there is a current step mother. The father is a famed composer whose friend Lewis Dodd (Brian Aherne) is a friend of the family. After the father dies and his current wife and child depart, Dodd contacts Tessa's mother's family in England and cousin Florence (Leonora Corbett) arrives to take charge of Tessa and sister Paula.
The Flamboyant Dodd falls for Florence and they marry. Florence packs the teens off to a boarding school while older sister Antonia (Jane Baxter) marries. Back in England the girls run away from the school and move in with Dodd, much to Florence's consternation. She doesn't understand the grand love between Dodd and Tessa, who are soul mates.
Florence pushes Dodd into finishing a symphony and makes the connections for him to have a grand premiere at symphony hall. But jealousy between Florence and Tessa continues to grow, and Florence wrongly assumes that Dodd has taken Tessa as his lover. Following the successful premiere of his symphony, Dodd runs off with Tessa, and they meet their fate one moonlit night in Brussels.
The subject matter involving an underage girl is quite remarkable for its time. The title refers to Tessa as a constant nymph with "constant" meaning chaste and pure. The opening scenes with the loud and raucous family are sometimes hard to hear, there's so much commotion.
Victoria Hopper (24 here) is just plain sensational as Tessa. She is lovingly photographed by director, Basil Dean. Indeed, they would be married in 1934. Brian Aherne is over the top, but his flamboyance fits the character of Lewis Dodd. Leonora Corbett is suitably chilly. Others in the cast include Mary Clare as the last step mother, Lyn Harding as the father, Jane Baxter as the sensible sister, and Tony De Lungo as the faithful servant.
THE CONSTANT NYMPH was previously filmed in 1928 as a silent, starring Ivor Novello and Mabel Poulton. Hollywood filmed it in 1943 with Joan Fontaine, Charles Boyer, and Alexis Smith.
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