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Fortysomething, blue blooded Boston born and bred, Harvard educated businessman Harry Pulham leads a regimented, routinized life with his wife, the former Kay Motford, who he's known since childhood. Harry outwardly believes he is all the more happy because of the way his life is, which was somewhat predetermined as part of his upbringing. This day, he receives two telephone calls which make him examine his life. The first is from Bo-Jo Brown, a Harvard colleague who is heading a twenty-five year reunion committee, with Harry foisted into the job of writing attendee biographies, which is to include his own. The second is from Marvin Myles, a former work colleague from his time over twenty years ago at the J.T. Bullard Advertising Agency in New York City, that job which Harry got from his more liberally minded Harvard friend Bill King. The result of these two telephone calls makes Harry wonder if he is happy, if he is or ever was in love with Kay, and if he never was if he would have ...Written by
H.M. Pulham, Esq. comes from a novel by John P. Marquand, the same man who wrote The Late George Apley. This man definitely knew his Boston and apparently was of the opinion that it was indeed the most civilized place on the globe or at least in the Western Hemisphere.
The title character is played by Robert Young whom we meet on the eve of World War II a seemingly content and successful businessman who gets a pair of calls that set him thinking about his life. The first is from a former Harvard classmate Leif Erickson who is organizing a class reunion. The second is from a woman whom he had a fling with back in the day before he married Ruth Hussey. That would be the drop dead gorgeous Hedy Lamarr.
This sets Young to thinking about what might have been and we got back to the days before, during, and after World War I when Young was much younger and unattached. After service in the Great War as they called it back then, he's decided that there is more to the world than the confines of Back Bay Boston. He decides to go to work for an advertising agency in New York. It's there that he meets Lamarr.
Hedy's a free spirit, not at all like the girls back home like Ruth Hussey. She's in fact being courted by Van Heflin who is another of Young's Harvard crowd and who's a odd fish in that crowd as well. The mores of Beacon Hill are just not Hedy's style and Young has to face that.
The film version of The Late George Apley ends before World War I and that was an event that impacted nearly all on the globe, one way or another. The Pulhams were probably just like the Apleys before the war. In fact Marquand had George Apley describing a youthful indiscretion with an Irish girl, definitely not of their crowd. If you know what happened there, you know how H.M. Pulham, Esq. resolved things and answered his own questions.
Even in Boston there's such a thing as a midlife crisis which is what Young is going through. H.M. Pulham, Esq. is a really cute film with a gorgeous Hedy Lamarr and a stalwart Robert Young. Leif Erickson got one of his best parts in film as the overage college jock whose high point in life was playing football for Harvard. Phil Brown is also good as Young's friend from childhood who went to Harvard with him, but is very clueless about anything that's not got the Boston seal of approval.
H.M. Pulham, Esq. ought to be seen back to back with The Late George Apley, it's like watching Apley in a different generation in many respects.
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