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Monday, September 2, 2013

Mrs. Parkington (1944)

When the wealthy, if dysfunctional, Parkington dynasty gathers for Christmas dinner, the 84 year old Parkington matriarch (Greer Garson in an Oscar nominated performance) reflects upon her past. From her humble beginnings as a maid in her mother's boarding house in a mining town to her rise to the top of New York society as the wife of an adventurous, if somewhat vulgar, tycoon (Walter Pidgeon). If Norma Shearer was the great lady of MGM in the thirties, Greer Garson took over in the 1940s. Whether playing Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennett, Mrs. Miniver, Madame Curie and here, Mrs. Parkington, Garson reeked of "class" even when playing feisty small town maids as she does here. In an amusing sequence, Agnes Moorehead as a French countess takes Garson under her wing and teaches her how to be a lady and when she's done, we still can't tell the difference! Pidgeon is somewhat miscast as a rough and tumble, self centered adventurer. The role cries out for a Gary Cooper or a Joel McCrea. The film also glosses over the nature of Pidgeon's character. At the beginning of the film, his greed and ruthlessness causes a mining accident that kills many yet the film seems to dismiss his culpability. In a bit of prescience, there's a Bernie Madoff plotline but the film's pro capitalist bent allows for a "happy" ending. Based on the novel by Louis Bromfield and directed by Tay Garnett. With Gladys Cooper playing against type as Garson's alcoholic daughter, Peter Lawford, Edward Arnold, Dan Duryea, Hugh Marlowe, Lee Patrick, Cecil Kellaway, Tom Drake, Rod Cameron, Selena Royle and Frances Rafferty.

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