Popular and beautiful Fanny Trellis is forced into a loveless marriage with an older man, Jewish banker Job Skeffington, in order to save her beloved brother Trippy from an embezzlement charge, and predictable complications result.
A piano teacher believes that her fiancé was killed on the battlefield. When he miraculously returns, they decide to marry, but are threatened by a wealthy, egotistical composer the piano teacher started dating on the rebound after she became convinced her love had died.
Sandra and Pete elope but their marriage is invalid since she's not yet divorced. Sandra is, however, pregnant by Pete. Pete marries his former fiancée Maggie, then flies to South America where his plane crashes. Maggie pays Sandra to let her adopt Pete's baby. Pete returns "from the dead". Sandra and Maggie contend for Pete and the baby.Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Well constructed, fast, soap opera plot film, wonderful escapism.
The Great Lie (1941)
This is really a fabulous mixture of great movie themes, and it pulls it together to make its own amazing statement about fidelity and love. And class. And pre-war America, seemingly isolated but actually trapped by world events.
Within ten minutes there is first an echo of My Man Godfrey (George Brent in this case making a more mainstream Powell) and then a swoop down for a taste of Gone with the Wind or even closer, Jezebel (the plantation south, even though it's 1940 or so). Then it's a melodrama straight up, and tragedy, and even if the plot is improbable, you go with it and get swept away.
Brent plays Pete, a man caught between two women, both of money, but one cosmopolitan and used to being in charge, and one a lively, warm woman living a more earthy life. At the start it seems Pete is married to the urbane one, a concert pianist, Sandra, played with typical poise and ice by Mary Astor (compare this to her more famous role in The Maltese Falcon from the same year). She's a professional woman, in charge of her life, and, lately, Pete's. She wants independence and culture, and man with his feet on the ground.
But Brent's country girl, an ex-love (and true love, it seems) Maggie is played to perfection by Bette Davis. The music here, and the support cast is African American, which makes for a more heart warming, and wrenching, background. He pays a visit to Maggie the day after his wedding (for reasons that slowly clarify) and the dynamic is set. And the twists begin. We have a contemporary drama between recognizable stereotypes as World War II looms for the U.S.
Early on, Sandra asks Pete after his visit to Maggie, "Did you get it?" He says, "What?" Sexual innuendo intact, the Hays code chaffing, she clarifies, "The air?" What a great simple example of how movies so often played brilliantly with innuendo because the code wouldn't allow a straighter interplay.
Director Edmund Goulding is not as well known as some of his contemporaries, but he has a few masterpieces in his lot, including the Bette Davis Dark Victory and the later Razor's Edge. For me, The Great Lie is maybe short of perfect--the plot does intrude on our sense of suspending disbelief--but it's really fast, moving, well written, and well directed. No question.
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