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Lydia MacMillan, a wealthy old woman who has never married, is invited by an old beau, Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, for a reunion with the men who have been in her life to reminisce about the times when they were young and courted her. In memory, each romance seemed splendid and destined for happiness, but in each case, Lydia realizes, the truth was less romantic, and ill-starred.Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
"Lydia" from 1941 is a remake of Jacques Duvivier's 1937 'Un Carnet De Bal.' It retains the same plot and here is remade by Duvivier himself.
Lydia MacMillan (Merle Oberon) is an old but still vital single woman who is visited by four ex-suitors: Michael (Joseph Cotton), Hans (Frank Andre), and Bob (George Reeves) who reminisce with her about the old days and how much they all loved her and wanted to marry her, and how, one way or another, it just didn't work out.
It turns out that Lydia, from a good Boston family, only had one great love, Richard (Alan Marshal), who, after a few days together (during which I think we are to assume she lost her virginity) takes off in his boat. He leaves her a "Dear Jane" letter, stating that he'll be back after he clears things up with a woman who "has a claim on him." He gives her his grandmother's wedding ring and says he will keep sending her rings until he returns. She hears from him sporadically but she never sees him again.
She can really never let go of her love for him, so she remains single, and devotes herself to her work with blind children, who attend a school she set up.
In 'Un Carnet de Bal," the character is widowed and wonders how her life would have been had she married the other men who were in love with her, the men who danced with her one night that changed her life forever.
The angle of "Lydia" is a little different and probably a little deeper. But it's still a film about nostalgia, youth, and disenchantment.
Edna Mae Oliver plays Lydia's grandmother, and she's wonderful in this, her last film. She died the following year at the age of 59. People probably thought she was 75.
Merle Oberon gives a lovely performance as Lydia, both as a young woman reveling in her beautiful gown, dancing, and being young, and as an older woman reminiscing. She tells each of the men that none of her really loved her because they never knew her; Michael loved "an angel," Hans, the blind composer/pianist she meets loved "the blond, blue eyed girl" described to him by a child whom he asked to describe Lydia and instead, she describes her doll; and Bob loved the young, wild thing that was ready to elope with him. Richard was the only man who truly knew her, and with him, she was herself. Or so she believes.
Duvivier did the best he could with this Americanized version, but it can't live up to 'Un Carnet De Bal' with its French sensibility.
Nevertheless, pleasant and worth seeing. A bittersweet story of a woman looking back on her life. We all do it at some point.
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