Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mrs. Parkington (1944)

Director: Tay Garnett


Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon are pair for the fourth of what would be eight occations in this resilient woman’s period drama. These two middle aged veterans of the screen portray romance through many decades, bringing with them a portrayal of how an younger lady could sweep a young lady off her feet by an older established man, and together grow into a mature wedded couple with many faults and joys that make relationships complicated and beautiful.

Mrs. Parkington is a drama about of a woman’s life story from a poor boarding house maid to the matriarch of a socially revered family. During the Christmas gathering of the wealthy Parkington family the elderly widowed matron Susie Parkington (Greer Garson) where moments throughout the day sparks her to recount her life in a series of flashbacks. We watch through the years as young shy Susie meets and weds the wealthy Major Augustus Parkington (Walton Pidgeon) and matures as a woman, wife, and mother. She experiences times of great sorrow and lose, as well as joy and love, while the two at times struggle through their marriage. Aged and long since widowed after the loss of the Major to an automobile accident, Susie teaches a valuable lesson to her ungrateful heirs that help the greater good of many at the cost of the family fortune as she is more than happy to return to her humble roots.

The feature lends to the style of its original source material being a novel. With a tale long that is drawn out, and many points linking back to one another, the story is structure particularly to evoke a sense of nostalgia, romance, loss, and maturity. Garson and Pidgeon make for beautiful couple in the sense that they share a turbulent relationship that always tends to fall back on itself, utilizing love to straighten the ship in life’s uneven coarse. As a product of World War II American cinema, these two middle aged actors deliver the romance simplified for a world where looking for stability while Hollywood’s younger star were serving their country.

Garson and Moorehead
Director Tay Garnett was a veteran filmmaker whose style tended to lean towards the sappy love story and period pieces, which makes Mrs. Parkington is right up his ally. His style is adequate for the picture as he remains rather simple in camera work and editing. His best work can be seen in the way his actors are set to deliver their lines in a subtle manner. Somehow the actors seem more lost in their characters’ own world, not playing so much for the camera, but evoking more on the attitude these characters are in, in very simple, restrained ways.

Agnes Moorehead, whose performance would garner her an Academy Award nomination while winning a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, came for the Mercury Theatre, best known for working with the entertainment prodigy, Orson Welles. Her delivery is more subtle than most, even compared to stars Garson and Pidgeon. She portrays Aspasia Conti, a baroness who shared an affair with the Major before Susie entered his life, and comes to aid Susie develop as a wife and as a woman, becoming a lifelong friend to her. Her performance here not only brought her acclaim, but helped to further propel her in long fruitful career in cinema before notable roles in on television including a key supporting role in Bewitched.

Garson in her more matured make-up.
The pairing of Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon, although being their fourth time in doing so, does feel a bit forced at times. Garson, who was 39 at the time of production, does her finest to make one believe she falls in love with the 47 year-old pigeon, who comes off as much older than her. Depicting themselves as a younger couple earlier in the feature is a bit challenging; especially for Pidgeon, but as the feature moves along you become lost in the love these two people have for each other through joys and sorrows. Ultimately we forget about these people as actors as we follow their tale. The cherry on top is Garson’s performance as the elder Susie who, despite all her primitive make-up, evokes the stature and class of a woman who has lived a lifetime and continues to evoke her husband’s ways as she watches over her family.

Mrs. Parkington is a pleasant motion picture to view for one seeking out a strong classic woman’s feature from the mid-20th century. At times it is a bit slow and lacking realism, but it is a charming love story united in a tale of a woman’s life story from naive young lady to matriarch. Today it serves more as a footnote in the long running history of Garson Pidgeon features.

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