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DODSWORTH, a ramble


laffite
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*DODSWORTH*

 

Alec Baldwin (guest programmer) in the intro remarked that Walter Huston came across so modern and un-stodgy and that Ruth Chatterton was the opposite, comparing her to Mary Pickford and the way that she came across as if in a more dated way. I didn?t quite see it that way, I thought she was quite realistic, even naturalistic, in the way she portrayed Fran Dodsworth. I won?t call it her movie but on this first viewing I was more impressed upon by her than any other which is saying something considering she is playing opposite Walter Huston. Walter Huston is phenomenal but it was Ruth who really got to me here. Her character has a little more to do and a little more business because of her little obsessions and struggles. Sam is more stable. To fully appreciate Walter is a more cultivated taste for me and will impress more upon me later, to be sure. Ruth Chatterton knocked my socks off immediately. She is so good at playing strong women, most notably, in Female (1933) and she is a strong woman here though she certainly makes choices in this story where she meets her match and more than once too.

 

I watched this movie for the first time a couple of nights ago and had no idea what is about. I?m not real good at discussing or posting at length unless I?ve seen the movie a few times, but here, the general lines are pretty clear cut though there may be tell-tale signs here and there that I?m missing something, so be it, that would be par for the course for me. What I?m saying here is more about my love and enthusiasm for the film than any sort of in-depth treatment of meaning and theme.

 

*CAUTION: If you haven?t seen Dodsworth and you like classic movies, please do yourself and favor and skip this. I give away the whole story. Don?t ruin this fine movie forever. Instead, get a hold of it and watch it. The less you know about it the better it will be.*

 

I learn early what?s going on with Fran but still, things are just beginning and the usual red flags signaling vanity and the concern with looks and not growing old don?t take immediate effect with me and she sustains a likability at the outset though I am quickly surprised (and perhaps meant to be) with the flirtations on the ship bound for Europe. But I keep an even keel because Sam, after all, seems to have a good-natured tolerance for it and he knows who she is and if it?s okay with him then it?s okay with me, after all, they?ve been married for 20 years and this is probably some, if not normal, at least transient, innocuous little thing, especially now that they are both free and, well, feeling free.

 

And besides he?s doing a little flirting of his own?with :x :x :x (why the loveys? Indulge me ;) .)

 

The sequence with Captain Clyde Lockhart (David Niven) was nothing less than splendid! She is carrying on getting the attention she wants but when she doesn?t ?go all the way? with him she gets a comeuppance. Lockert?s little speech to her is direct and rather devastating. It?s no mere shot across the bow. Captain Lockert has sharp words and he is so classy about it (David Niven is great). He cuts her down a few notches by saying, among other things, ?You think you?re a woman of the world, but you?re not.? He is brutally honest with her and he made me feel a bit sorry for her. She has this betrayed look on her face and I?m getting to know her better. I?m thinking she just likes to play games in getting the attention and compliments but would not go so far as to jeopardize her marriage which might explain Sam?s tolerance but I also learn that she might be a bit of a phony, covering up her roots instead of realizing who she really is or where she comes from. This won?t be the first time she forgets where she comes from and where she is?no fear?but the Baroness comes later.

 

I?m feeling sorry for her now and liking her more as I see her cave and sink into the arms of Sam. She wants to be delivered from folly of these little obsessions and be a good wife and seems to realize who she really is again. She says, ?Oh Sam, I?m just a wooly American just like you are and if you ever catch me being anything else, will you beat me.?

 

Chatterton is so good at showing feminine strength that I thought she was a little out of her element when she was sitting on the bed recovering from her Lockart experience and lamenting to Sam. She?s sitting there tearful and trying to screw up her face with hurt and remorse and I thought she was unconvincing doing that. Is Chatterton restricted in range to play the weak and remorseful?

 

Anyway, she likeable again. She?s on the right track. She?s learned her lesson and and the story will probably take a new turn...

 

But no?

 

Arnold Iselin.

 

In a wonderful moment in the film, a moment that will probably be appreciated more by a woman than a man. :x :x :x sees Fran flirting with Iselin and walks up to Fran and delivers the most terse piece of advice in the history of movies??Don?t.? I loved that. ?What?? says Fran as if she doesn?t know.

 

Next, a splendid scene where Sam and Fran argue. She?s got all that goop on her face. Laffite sitting in the chair guffawing. Chatterton is superb, eyes flashing, looking faintly ridiculous all white-faced with finely-applied cream and fancying herself ?accepted? in Parisian society. Sam is pacing the room, waving his arms, an ?ordinary American businessman? and who may not be the fancy-shmancy type but knows a lot more than all these high-born monsieurs she is enamored with. She thinks they should have a time away from each other, not so serious as an actual separation, of course, but just a sort of ?vacation from each other.?

 

Then she lays one on Sam that startles me. It?s a good scene because she?s at her bureau and he is in the other room. She says, oh, by the way, Sam, I?ve rented a villa in Italy for the summer and?the scene is set up well because we can already anticipate him emerging from the room with a look of befuddlement. He does that and having already assented to returning to America without her, he says, ?You might have told me.? No kidding. I am amazed that Fran would go this far. I?m beginning to wonder about Fran now?and so is Sam. He approaches her and says, ?You?re not drifting away from me, are you?,? not all grave with heavy drama but in an almost mockingly affectionate way and so like him too, to be that way? and I loved the way she sort of looks up and out the corner of her eye in a sort of wonderment says, ?I hope not,? as if she is truly wondering if that could really be true.

 

One thing about Fran and the marvelous way that Chatterton plays her is that she is really up front with what is on her mind. She is totally honest and acquits herself well even when confronted with the most difficult admissions. The way she says, ?I hope not,? is one of those moments. She?s not all that likeable right now but I have an admiration for her honesty and her apparent realization that she is playing a dangerous game with her marriage.

 

Sam does go back to America and Fran goes too far with Iselin. It?s a full-blown affair this time and it?s becoming clear that Fran no longer loves Sam. It?s more now than flirtatious games to fan her vanity, the feeling now is that she could live quite well without Sam though she doesn?t quite have the details on how that might happen, that is, until she meets?

 

The Baron Kurt Von Obersdorf.

 

She seems genuinely surprised that he wants to marry her. When she agrees I?m sure now that she no longer loves Sam or she can?t stand the idea of going back to that ?hick? town, not to mention being a grandmother, and not get what she calls ?civilization? the niceties and the attentions of French society. Fran is not likeable here but I?m feeling for her a little bit because I can sense that she is making a big mistake. I could understand her with the flirtations etc but I thought she was tied to Sam and that there were limits. Like she said to Iselin when the latter tried to make her forget Sam as being in the past, ??but he?s the future too,? she says. She realized that then but has forgotten that now. She trades in Sam for Kurt and it was the mistake of her life. I found this out when she butted heads with?

 

The Baroness Von Ubersdorf

 

?from whom she suffers a defeat of considerable magnitude that makes the comeuppance from Captain Lockhart (Niven) seem like a slap on the cheek. The Baroness won?t allow the marriage to her son. Captain Lockhart is right, Fran is not a woman of the world and she doesn?t quite really know where she is but only where she is not. She is not back in America where you are free and anything goes but she is in Europe where there are steadfast traditions and values that go back centuries and Fran is about to learn them?the hard way. You must get the mother?s permission to marry, there are religious considerations, and in the most searing cut of all there are progeny to consider and Fran is an ?older woman? and this is the biggest cut of all because this is at the root of all Fran?s fears, growing old.

 

I appreciated how Fran (Chatterton is great here) fights doggedly for what she wants. She stands up to the Baroness under great stress. She is devastated but she is articulate and even threatens to marry Kurt anyway all the while appalled that Kurt is standing there like a butler, a clear sign to Fran just who in fact is the woman of his life?and it isn?t her.

 

But another reason she loses out is in the form of Maria Ouspenskaya. Nobody wins out against her. It doesn?t matter what movie she?s in, she is a forbidding presence and not to be denied. The indomitable Maria wins again. ;)

 

In the final scene Fran is not likeable and necessarily so because we are ready for her final act. She is made to look really bad. She is not grateful that Sam is helping her. She casually presumes that he has come back to her as though nothing has happened at all, she is contemptuously dismissive of everything around her, and just plain cross as all get out. But even here she is aware of what is happening and can comment on it. ?I see I can?t seem to find the right note of congeniality.?

 

I wonder if the original play tones her down at all in this last scene. Would it be more interesting if Fran were penitent and maybe a little hurt and wounded, more sympathetic perhaps, making Sam?s decision difficult and creating suspense for the audience? Whatever the case, I?m sure Hollywood wanted it just as they played it with Sam seeing who Fran really is allowing him to return to :x :x :x with a clear conscience, something he needs because he is built that way.

 

At this, her worst moment, I find myself, paradoxically, not feeling all that sorry for her. She is resilient. She?ll fix her hair and choose the right clothes and make sure the door is closed so she won?t catch cold and she?ll find the next Iselin, or Kurt, or?whoever. She is too strong to capitulate and let?s remember, she has her own money. She?ll be all right.

 

*CONTINUING SPOILERS*

 

My initial impression of Sam Dodsworth (Walter Huston) was immediate and it didn?t really change from beginning to end. I liked him. And if you?re a woman you probably loved him.

 

Sam Dodsworth retires from being ?an ordinary American businessman? and actually does (gasp!) what retirees are supposed to do but sometimes have a hard time actually doing---retire. Huston imbues him with an irrepressible boyish enthusiasm and charm and he is off to all the sights of Paris but there is only one thing wrong. Fran doesn?t want to go with him. And we are beginning to know at this juncture that Fran is anything but a tourist. She is more interested in ?civilization? and being admired for what she?s afraid she?ll soon lose.

 

These two are so different. Can you see Fran visiting Napoleon's tomb? How is it these two lived so long and so happily together? And how did he come to love her so much? But love her he does. He adores her. It?s almost sweet the way he is after her to accompany him on his sightseeing trips, as if they haven?t been married for 20 years. It seems more rather as if they have just met and he is wooing her. He has a total regard for her. He is indulgent with her flirtatious games. He is not na?ve about the Lockert dalliance and aftermath but he seems to think he knows Fran and doesn?t suspect her of any misdeed. He is quite even-handed with her in just about everything. He acquiesces (though not entirely gracefully, he?s not a pushover) when she suggests he return to America without her and I guess he feels she is going to remain faithful to him when she rents the villa. When he finally has to take some action and arranges the three-way meeting he is more than fair with the both of them and forgives Fran completely. Can you ask for more?

 

And what he said at the train station. I?m trying to think how to say this because I am not the sappy type. Fran is leaving and she looks up at him and says, ?Try not to be too terribly lonely, will you, Sam,? to which he replies as the train pulls out of the station---ready for this---?Have I mentioned to you today how much I adore you.? She said something to him that might have been hurtful though she didn?t mean it that way but he responded with something stronger, not to out do her or to have a come back, but with simple honesty. It?s a beautiful line, much better than the standard ?I love you, Fran? that we usually get here. What a thing to say to the woman who is leaving you! I was jolted a little by it (and yes, moved, almost tearfully) and it justifies that almost stricken look on Fran?s face as the train pulls away and they?re looking at each other. Did it occur to her at that moment that she had made a mistake?

 

Just as I had reservations about Ruth Chatterton playing the sad and whiny type, I wasn?t totally convinced watching Walter Huston play the depressive type. He may have been a little out of his element there as well?but on the other hand maybe that?s what a normally ebullient man looks like when he is depressed. He is alone and hitting every museum in Italy. Though not abjectly sorrowful he is nonetheless quite deflated.

 

He is saved by the re-acquaintance of one of the most appealing women I have ever seen depicted on screen or stage and perhaps even in real life, the exquisite?

 

:x :x :x aka Mrs. Edith Cortright (Mary Astor)

 

She comes across as worldly but uncomplicated, Intelligent but not smug, as a delicately level-headed woman with a pleasant serenity about her and who projects a sense of quiet and gentle companionship. I love her. I love the way she looks, the way she talks, her every manner of being. Oh Fran, what a rival you have in Mrs Edith Cortright! :x :x :x

 

(If there is a heaven, one part of it might be living at that villa by that lake with that lady and spending at least a part of eternity with her?even if we just sit around and read books. ;) )

 

Sam and Edith gives me as understated love scene as I will ever see. They are having a simple conversation and they almost by accident discover that they love each other. They were so happy just being themselves and being in each others company and a conversation takes a certain turn when Sam absently, but honestly, includes her in a venture and Edith is shocked and then next thing we know she is saying, ?I think I must love you, Sam.? There is something extraordinary about how that occurred and it made me believe that this is the way the love thing is supposed to happen. A wonderful scene.

 

Later, Edith fights for what she fears losing when the call from Vienna comes. The gentleness gives way here but even her anger has a sort of admirable restraint. But angry she is and we see what a gentle woman looks like when she feels something she has always wanted begin to slip away. It has been obvious from the outset that she is a lonely woman and despite her calm exterior perhaps desperately so. I believed her when she said earlier that she had been waiting for something to happen for a long, long time. Well, Edith, it finally happened. Mary Astor is perfection. She gives Edith Cortright the joy she deserves as she looks out on the lake to see the boat bringing the man she loves home to her.

 

I mean, what a movie, yes?

 

PS Don?t tell *Butterscotchgreer* that I?m being so sappy. I tease her about that very thing and she shouldn?t ever think that laffite could ever be like that. I mean, everybody knows that pirates aren?t like that. ;)

//

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Mon Dieu Valjean de Bergerac Lafitte. BELISSIMA! C?EST MAGNIFIQUE!!

 

What a wonderful ramble about a great classic motion picture.

 

 

Your ramble really made me feel as though I were sitting there next to you watching it. Your writing simply bowls me over. There were three instances that you wrote about which really had my mouth agape with your expressiveness:

 

"These two are so different. Can you see Fran visiting Napoleon's tomb? How is it these two lived so long and so happily together? And how did he come to love her so much? But love her he does. He adores her. It?s almost sweet the way he is after her to accompany him on his sightseeing trips, as if they haven?t been married for 20 years."

 

"But another reason she loses out is in the form of Maria Ouspenskaya. Nobody wins out against her. It doesn?t matter what movie she?s in, she is a forbidding presence and not to be denied. The indomitable Maria wins again."

 

"She comes across as worldly but uncomplicated, Intelligent but not smug, as a delicately level-headed woman with a pleasant serenity about her and who projects a sense of quiet and gentle companionship. I love her. I love the way she looks, the way she talks, her every manner of being. Oh Fran, what a rival you have in Mrs Edith Cortright!"

 

Your writing about this film, reveals not just spoilers about the movie (which we?re amply warned about) but HOW YOU FEEL about the movie; HOW YOU FEEL about movies.

 

I?m a recent fan of ?Dodsworth.? It is one of my father?s favorite movies. (I just asked him for a list of his faves, since he was a boy when all of the classics we know and cherish were freshly delivered to the theatres). Walter Huston blows me away. Very very natural. I can?t separate him from Sam or vice-versa. You?ve also offered up Fran?s character in a way that I can feel sorry for her. (I?m not very good at looking at both sides of the cinematic coin. I love who I love...and loathe who I loathe). As for Mary Astor...you said a mouthful, bub!

 

With this ramble you?ve captured the movie. Your writing is exquisite. Every time I?m ready to give up this {*****}-infested board, I read someone?s heartfelt writing and I?m back. What we write says a lot about us, good and bad.

 

Great ramble, man. Thank you for allowing us peer inside your heart. Hmmm...somehow, I don?t think we deserve it.

 

Bon soir Monsieur Jean Valjean de Bergerac Lafitte D?Amerique, Extraordinaire. ;-)

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i totally agree. 'dodsworth' is one of the best movies of the of the 'thirties. watching it for the first time is quite a revelation. the themes do not date at all, and they stay surprisingly fresh.

 

ruth chatterton, a great actress, took this role and made 'fran' sympathetic and her motivations understandable, even though the character is in effect the villian of the piece. this was one of the best performances of that era.

 

as for walter huston..... well, i don't believe i have EVER been as DEEPLY moved by an actor's performance as i've been by his 'sam dodsworth'.

 

in this regard, IMHO, this is the best performance, given by an actor, that i've ever witnessed.

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*Your ramble really made me feel as though I were sitting there next to you watching it.*

 

Ha, I must have got that from you, that's what you're so good at. You may be a bit too lavish in those plaudits though...Thank you for all the nice and supportive comments. :)

 

*Your writing about this film, reveals not just spoilers about the movie (which we?re amply warned about) but HOW YOU FEEL about the movie; HOW YOU FEEL about movies.*

 

And that's the key, I think. I could never write a sober review. That's as purely intellectual exercise and I'm a little short in that department. It's the feeling part that make the thoughts just come. I think that ramble might have been a bit overlong but I am taken by how great this movie is and, yes, I may have wallowed a bit too much in all its wonderful details. There are so many really great moments there.

 

*You?ve also offered up Fran?s character in a way that I can feel sorry for her.*

 

I must have a "bleeding heart." I tend to give a break to people who behave badly due to compulsions and fears (think: Laural Grey) :) . What else can they do? Fran Dodsworth created her own demise so I don't feel sorry for her in that respect but her obsession and fear about growing old, though self-centered, was very real to her and driving her behavior and I can have a certain sympathy with the helplessness that comes with trying to deal with that. It's easier too to feel sorry for her in that she hurt mainly just herself. Sure she hurt Sam but he is amply recompensed in the person of :x :x :x (lucky guy ;) ) Ultimately though, and in the main, she is not sympathetic at all in the way she comes across final scene with Sam on the ocean liner. But they wrote her a bad scene so Sam could walk away without a qualm. ;)

 

Thanks, Maven

:)

//

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I have to agree whole :x :x :x -edly with CineMaven on this.... your ramble was just terrific!

 

I especially liked the way you started out talking about Fran, because I just love the way Ruth Chatterton plays her. I too feel sorry for Fran. Her life is so empty of any meaning that she occupies herself far too much with making herself attractive and

 

Fran is not a woman of the world and she doesn?t quite really know where she is but only where she is not.

 

This was a perfect perfect description, and I think we all have a little of this in us somewhere. I loved the way you wrote of her and of your conflicting EMOTION about her. Because though I think it is a great movie, I wonder why we are allowed to be thrilled and happy when Sam and :x :x :x finally get together, but are mad at Fran for cheating. I know she is only doing it because of her vanity and her yearning for something different in her life. She doesn't really and truly love her paramours, but I can't help feeling sympathy for her. And Sam although he really doesn't know it at the time, doesn't really have the love he wants.

 

>These two are so different. Can you see Fran visiting Napoleon's tomb? How is it these two lived so long and so happily together? And how did he come to love her so much? But love her he does. He adores her. It?s almost sweet the way he is after her to accompany him on his sightseeing trips, as if they haven?t been married for 20 years. It seems more rather as if they have just met and he is wooing her.

 

I think that they have lived all those years together and actually don't know one another. Sam has been in business, I picture him coming home for dinner and reading his paper. His life is very independent from Fran's. He doesn't have much of a clue about Fran. His real life is at the office, and her real life is at home alone or with other people. When he does come home, now that the kids are raised, she has started having parties to give her a sense of herself, and he is just another guest. Her life grew without him, just as his life grew without her for all those years. She threw everything she had into making his career successful. But I wonder, if that's enough for a woman? This is why they seem like they haven't been married for 20 years, and I don't really blame her or him. It is how we live, and I think this is one of the strengths of the movie, that it is pointing up a lack in American society. If Fran had a career, instead of devoting herself to Sam's, would she have felt age as much? Would she have become so concerned with image? So shallow?

 

Chatterton's performance just blows me away every time I see it.... and the way you wrote about the smack that David Niven gives her, and then the ultimate smackdown by Madame Ouspenskaya was beautiful!

 

The movie is a series of shocks to me - first that little chat between Fran and Captain Lackhart, then the idea that Fran would go back and start seeing someone again....all the things you mentioned......and finally her attempt to step into another world that she didn't understand. Can you imagine Fran actually married to Kurt? What a hell that would be in reality, for both of them.

 

Thank you for clarifying the film for me, crystallizing my feelings about it, and also for making me feel a little better for liking poor shallow Fran in spite of everything. Because she is deluded. Because she will not find what Sam and :x :x :x have.

 

It was a beautiful, beautiful review.

 

Edited by: JackFavell on Nov 20, 2009 2:23 PM

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*PS Don?t tell Butterscotchgreer that I?m being so sappy. I tease her about that very thing and she shouldn?t ever think that laffite could ever be like that. I mean, everybody knows that pirates aren?t like that.*

 

Too late! heehee! well now youre never gonna get your rum, b/c sappy pirates dont drink that stuff. ;)

 

i have such mixed feelings about Dodsworth. i stayed up late one day last year and watched this movie and it left a bittersweet taste for me. i loved Mary Astor's performance as well as Walter Huston's. I however, did not like Chatterton in her performance, but she makes a great bitter woman obsessed with staying young not with her own husband; she was very selfish in her ways. I loved how Astor's character was so much of the opposite and loved every bit of her life and wanted to enjoy evertything around her.

 

She really made Huston( i should start saying their actual names in the movie, Sam) really start to appreciate life as he knew it. He experienced joy, sadness, excitement, confusion and other emotions, that i dont think he ever took the time to feel before he met her, which is one of the reasons i love *Dodsworth* in itself.

 

As much as i didn't like Fran's personality, which really bothered me(almost as much as Mariam Hopkins role in The Old Maid) I did appreciate the message it was sending out, which (for me) was live life to its fullest and sometimes the things that make life worth living cant be thought in your mind, but they must be felt in your heart...

 

....and i think Chatterton got what she deserved in the end...okay i feel better now. heehee!

 

i really loved your SAPPY post mon swasheroo! you can never hide the softiness from me!

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*Too late! heehee! well now youre never gonna get your rum, b/c sappy pirates dont drink that stuff. ;)*

 

Well, I guess I'll have to quit then...being sappy, that is.

 

*...she (( Fran )) was very selfish in her ways.*

 

Very much so.

 

*I loved how Astor's character was so much of the opposite and loved every bit of her life and wanted to enjoy evertything around her.*

 

:x :x :x

 

Oops, there I go again being sappy. I have to watch that. I have this new plunder-wrought Jamaican rum and I can't let it go to waste.

 

*....and i think Chatterton got what she deserved in the end...okay i feel better now. heehee!*

 

Can't argue with you there. Despite pockets of sympathy she might draw here and there, in the end we do reap what we sow.

 

*i really loved your SAPPY post mon swasheroo! you can never hide the softiness from me!*

 

Thank you, Greer, but I can tell you it's all in act. If I came off a little sappy there, it was temporary insanity. Yes, temporary insanity, that's what it was! And besides you'd better not tell any of my men aboard ship, they might recall me and then I wouldn't be Captain anymore and ole laffite would be relegated below decks where i would sit around and read dime romantic novels and what kind of life is that for renown and fearsome blackguard such as myself, sheesh! ;)

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Does anyone else think Fran's actions suggest that she was not sexually fulfilled in her marriage? At the beginning of the film she couldn't express this idea even to herself, but as she allows herself to be unfaithful and continues, mustn't this be part of what she wants?

 

Laffite, thanks for starting a great ramble. DODSWORTH seems to justify all the attention we can spend on its details.

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I hadn't thought of it until you mentioned it. I thought it was all about staying young and whatever that would take. It was ultimately pointed out when Sam threatened to tell anyone she was a grandmother. My biggest problem with Fran (and maybe with Sam) is that she was so "right in front of him" about it. Granted you don't have much of a movie if she is not. He also wasn't very upset about it until later.

 

Two people with different ideas on different paths.

 

You make an interesting point.

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you are right, at least that was my take on it as well. fran's need for attention included the sexual, but it seemed to me fran just REFUSED to step up into middle age with her husband's retirement.

 

'dodsworth' is really about witnessing the end of a marriage as the needs of sam and fran begin to take each down different paths.

 

fran was pehaps spoiled and pampered by her rich husband over the years, but she had done her duty, raised her daughter until she was married off, etc. now it was her time to shine on her own terms...that drive was very precious to her.

 

but what was so sad and touching about fran was that her fight was not with sam or kurt's mother. her fight was with aging and the passage of TIME, a fight that she will lose in the end and must eventually come to terms with.

 

if i could fault her for anything, it would be that she would use sam so badly through the course of the film. she totally took sam's deep love for her for granted.

 

fran would also dump sam ONLY when she had his replacement lined up...that was cruel.

 

and as hard as the ending was for her, it did put her in the correct position.... she could now be a rich divorcee living on the continent, alone, yes, but not for long, i'm sure.

 

a wonderful, many-layered film with so much to ponder on afterwards.

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Hi Jackie, thank you! :)

 

>I especially liked the way you started out talking about Fran

 

I think what happened here is that I felt more intrigued with her at the beginning. Of the two she was the one drifting and it seemed to be her story more than Sam's. Sam is stable and apparently the same as always while Fran is the one actually driving the story with her provocative social behaviours etc. I'm interested in Sam's reaction to this but she's the one I'm watching and wondering about. At least at the beginning.

 

>I think that they have lived all those years together and actually don't know one another. Sam has been in business, I picture him coming home for dinner and reading his paper. His life is very independent from Fran's. He doesn't have much of a clue about Fran. His real life is at the office, and her real life is at home alone or with other people. When he does come home, now that the kids are raised, she has started having parties to give her a sense of herself, and he is just another guest. Her life grew without him, just as his life grew without her for all those years.

 

That's interesting, but how come he loves her so much. Remember what he said to her at the train station. That wasn't a garden-variety I love you. Sam seems to know himself and comes across to me as someone who has it together. Is that what others think...or no? Maybe I have him wrong. I don't see him as foolish or not knowing what he wants. I don't see him as someone who doesn't "have a clue" about Fran and yet still feel he loves her that much. He doesn't come across as naive when Fran starts these little dalliances, he seems to understand what 's happening and even a little above it all and in control, he chides her and gives her a little room almost as if he knows she's going to come out of it. And after the Lockert incident she has this scene where she does seem to come out of it and tells him to watch her if she forgets where she came from.

 

Is it possible that they were actually very happy together and that Fran was never really confronted with fear of growing old business during her busy life raising the child and being a faithful wife and helping and loving her husband. For one thing she was not old for most of the time, growing older only happens gradually, and if the thought should ever creep to consciousness she was busy enough not to allow it to get her attention and that it was only after having this long future of retirement in front of her that she realizes that she is still young looking and therefore falls prey to this fear of losing her looks and begins to act in a way that she never has before.

 

As you say, though, maybe they were on automatic pilot during their marriage and then had to actually do the flying when retirement came. In any case, my feeling is that he has always loved her but I am unclear whether the opposite is true.

 

>Chatterton's performance just blows me away every time I see it..

 

I understand :) I've never seen anything quite like it. Watch her during the argument when Sam goes to answer the phone that turns out to be a complaint. The camera follows him and but watch the little business she does as the camera leaves her. She is so damn real.

 

>Can you imagine Fran actually married to Kurt? What a hell that would be in reality, for both of them.

 

No, I can't...and I'm surprised the story even went that far. It seemed out of sync with what preceded it. I could see Fran wanting the attention but holding back like she did with Lockert, or even going all the way with Iselin with the situation sort of getting out of hand, but actually getting married to someone else seemed a step out of character and almost contrary to the whole story. Unless we are supposed to believe that Fran wanted to marry for the satisfaction of knowing that he was younger than she and thereby she could see herself as not so old. If so, then Fran comes across almost a pathetic woman and I am disappointed in that because I think that despite her obsessions and fears she would be smarter and more self aware than that. I see the necessity, plot-wise, that she would be made to want to marry him, but realistically it seems a sort of false note to the story.

 

Thanks, J

:)

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Hi Laffite,

 

I think *DodsWorth* is such a wonderful film and I'm glad you brought it out for a ramble. I thought Huston and Chatterton were both exceptional in this. Yes, I did feel for Fran. I always thought it was a very mature and modern (particularly for it's time) depiction of an older couple coming to terms with their own identities, hopes and desires (especially Fran) as they reach a point in their lives where Sam feels decidely more comfortable about the future and Fran seems rather afraid of where her life might be headed.

 

I am going to try and watch this tonight so I can get a fresh perspective. I'll be back later with more comments.

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?When he does come home, now that the kids are raised, she has started having parties to give her a sense of herself, and he is just another guest. Her life grew without him, just as his life grew without her for all those years. She threw everything she had into making his career successful. But I wonder, if that's enough for a woman? This is why they seem like they haven't been married for 20 years, and I don't really blame her or him. It is how we live, and I think this is one of the strengths of the movie, that it is pointing up a lack in American society.? - JackFavell

 

Really nicely said Jackaaaaay. Ingmar Bergman made a twenty hour movie "Scenes From a Marriage" with Liv Ullman. We have "Dodsworth." At least in these days women have careers outside the home. I think this helps to make things interesting for both, and they both can bring something to the table. (Look what happened to Stanwyck in that movie she did with Sterling Hayden and Raymond Burr "Crimes of Passion." Girls, ya gotta get outta the house).

 

?As much as i didn't like Fran's personality, which really bothered me(almost as much as Mariam Hopkins role in The Old Maid) I did appreciate the message it was sending out, which (for me) was live life to its fullest and sometimes the things that make life worth living cant be thought in your mind, but they must be felt in your heart...? - ButterScotchGreer.

 

If you learn this lesson at your young age Baby T., you should be well on your way to having a really fulfilled life. Experience everything, but think smart.

 

?But what was so sad and touching about fran was that her fight was not with sam or kurt's mother. her fight was with aging and the passage of TIME, a fight that she will lose in the end and must eventually come to terms with.? - marcco44.

 

We can?t fight time and that will be a losing battle for Fran. Saaaay, what did Dr. Omar say in ?The Shanghai Gesture?: "The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it," quoting Omar Khayyam.

 

?And as hard as the ending was for her, it did put her in the correct position...she could now be a rich divorcee living on the continent, alone, yes, but not for long, i'm sure.? - marcco44.

 

And I have a feeling that our provincial little Fran will be taken by dashingly handsome European gigolos for everything Sam was worth.

 

LAFFITE writes:

 

?I think what happened here is that I felt more intrigued with her at the beginning. Of the two she was the one drifting and it seemed to be her story more than Sam's. Sam is stable and apparently the same as always while Fran is the one actually driving the story with her provocative social behaviours etc. I'm interested in Sam's reaction to this but she's the one I'm watching and wondering about. At least at the beginning.?

 

Your review of this film gave me much food for thought, simply b?cuz you put the spotlight on Fran (at least at first). It made me think of the epic --battle-- uh, discussion of ?In A Lonely Place? where the focus of the story shifts from Dixon Steele to (our put upon) Laurel Gray. We could look at the story of ?DODSWORTH? as Sam?s story (?cuz we want a happy ending for him, and ultimately ourselves) but it?s also Fran?s story as well. (Though that discussion was as long as The Odyssey and The Illiad combined...ours was much more interesting, n'est-ce pas)? Homer who!

 

Ha! I think of Judy Collins? song:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CavaVZI_xDc&feature=related

 

?That wasn't a garden-variety I love you. Sam seems to know himself and comes across to me as someone who has it together. Is that what others think...or no? Maybe I have him wrong. I don't see him as foolish or not knowing what he wants. I don't see him as someone who doesn't "have a clue" about Fran and yet still feel he loves her that much. He doesn't come across as naive when Fran starts these little dalliances, he seems to understand what 's happening and even a little above it all and in control, he chides her and gives her a little room almost as if he knows she's going to come out of it.?

 

Sam is a meat and potatoes guy. He knows what he wants. He deals in business like this. Plain simple, make a decision and live with it. Perhaps he had a little bit of selfishness? A touch of tun-

nel vision, maybe? Fran made Sam?s life very easy at home. He didn?t have to turn a quarter of an inch to find what he needed. She provided things for him. (Remember how he freaked out in his library b?cuz things had been changed and ?your mother always...?) But as Nixon said, let me make this perfectly clear...my heart belongs to Sammy Dodsworth!

 

(Uhhmmm, well...the first part was Nixon, the last part was CineMaven).

 

?No, I can't...and I'm surprised the story even went that far. It seemed out of sync with what preceded it. I could see Fran wanting the attention but holding back like she did with Lockert, or even going all the way with Iselin with the situation sort of getting out of hand, but actually getting married to someone else seemed a step out of character and almost contrary to the whole story.?

 

Is it a possibility Lafitte that for the time...that was the natural progression of womanhood, or the state or status of being a Woman: first the ?tease?; then the ?going all the way?; then Marriage??

 

Lafitte, I said it before...and I?m sayin? it again: fantastic job of writing, heart-felt feelings, and serious food for thought. Now if you could just teach me how to create that Mary Astor emoticon,

my posting life will be complete.

 

"I am going to try and watch this tonight so I can get a fresh perspective. I'll be back later with more comments." - Molo.

 

I'll hold you to that man. You know you're a Molo after my own heart. I'm going to check later.

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*Now if you could just teach me how to create that Mary Astor emoticonmy posting life will be complete.*

 

You mean my I love you Edith Cortright emoticon. Sorry, that's private. ;)

 

Determining the how of any emoticon you see can be done this way:

 

1) copy the emoticon to a Word document

2) click on Edit

3) click on Edit Special

4) click Unformatted Text

5) click OK

 

Voila!

 

*?And as hard as the ending was for her, it did put her in the correct position...she could now be a rich divorcee living on the continent, alone, yes, but not for long, i'm sure.? - marcco44.*

 

*And I have a feeling that our provincial little Fran will be taken by dashingly handsome European gigolos for everything Sam was worth.*

 

I had the feeling she had some money of her own. When she rents the villa she says something to that effect. And doesn't Sam say something about Fran being the daughter of a...tycoon, or something. Minor point, just a memory tug.

 

*We can?t fight time and that will be a losing battle for Fran. Saaaay, what did Dr. Omar say in ?The Shanghai Gesture?: "The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it," quoting Omar Khayyam.*

 

Lovely quote, Mave. You know how to pick'em out of the at just the right time. You a master of the A Propos. I didn't know that was from Khayyam. Omar quoting Omar.

 

*Though that discussion (( In a Lonely Place )) was as long as The Odyssey and The Illiad combined...ours was much more interesting, n'est-ce pas)? Homer who!*

 

Bien sur! Do you think our, uh, discussion should be taught in college? Homer, let's see...isn't that what they call it when you hit it over the fence... :D

 

*Ha! I think of Judy Collins? song:*

 

I like how you relate things to everything far and wide...tres bien! :)

 

*Is it a possibility Lafitte that for the time...that was the natural progression of womanhood, or the state or status of being a Woman: first the ?tease?; then the ?going all the way?; then Marriage??*

 

Shows you how much I know about love, marriage, and women. I had thought back then it was "tease" then "marriage" then "going all the way," or at least that they were trying to tell us. ;) Sort of like the Victorian age. It was the Victorian age okay but that doesn't they were really, un, Victorian.

 

*I am going to try and watch this tonight so I can get a fresh perspective. I'll be back later with more comments." - Molo.*

 

*I'll hold you to that man. You know you're a Molo after my own heart. I'm going to check later.*

 

Me too. :)

 

..

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i think fran's choice of kurt as her next husband shows us her increasing desperation. an affair between the two is one thing, but a marriage would not have worked out in the long term, as kurt's mother quickly pointed out.

 

one of my favorite turning points in the film is sam's final confrontation of fran about her infidelities with kurt.

 

when he forces fran to open the door and talk to him, she does so... but covers herself up as if he were an intruder, an outsider in her life. after 20 years of marriage.

 

even before she speaks, it is so clear that the relationship is OVER. i even believe that she has just given herself to kurt, and that is why she is so hostile to sam for being in her space.

 

there is nothing sam can do to change that-- and yet sam loves her so much, he'll let her go to make her happy... even if it causes him tremendous grief. sam always put fran above himself.

 

and in the next sequence, sam's goodbye at the train station is just heartbreaking.

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We can?t fight time and that will be a losing battle for Fran. Saaaay, what did Dr. Omar say in ?The Shanghai Gesture?: "The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all thy tears wash out a word of it," quoting Omar Khayyam.

 

Lovely quote, Mave. You know how to pick'em out of the at just the right time. You a master of the A Propos. I didn't know that was from Khayyam. Omar quoting Omar.

 

That?s me, the Master of a propos and faux pas. Also, je m?appelle bibliotheque. (Yeah, now I?m just slinging French words together).

 

------

 

Though that discussion ?In a Lonely Place? was as long as ?The Odyssey? and ?The Illiad? combined...ours was much more interesting, n'est-ce pas)? Homer who!

 

Bien sur! Do you think our, uh, discussion should be taught in college?

 

That?s a thought. But maybe not. We don?t want college kids protesting like it?s 1968.

 

------

 

Homer, let's see...isn't that what they call it when you hit it over the fence...

 

Naaaah. Homer...is the guy who married Marge Simpson, you wacky pirate!

 

------

 

Ha! I think of Judy Collins? song:

 

I like how you relate things to everything far and wide...tres bien!

 

That?s me boy, I?ve got a mind like a sieve. ;-)

 

A bientot.

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Hi *Marcco44*, thank you for your comments

 

*i think fran's choice of kurt as her next husband shows us her increasing desperation. an affair between the two is one thing, but a marriage would not have worked out in the long term, as kurt's mother quickly pointed out.*

 

It was not really a "choice," per se., it was an opportunity. Kurt mentioned the idea first and she says, "Kurt, you must stop that kind of talk." I thought she was sincere when she said that. It wasn't a gamey reply. She was surprised that he wanted to marry her. She wasn't pushing the idea herself, but when he brought it up it's as if she thought to herself, why not?

 

*one of my favorite turning points in the film is sam's final confrontation of fran about her infidelities with kurt.*

 

But did he really confront her? It depends how we read what he says. When he's at the door with her he says, "It's pretty late...not that I mind you and Kurt staying out late." I didn't detect any latent accusation there. He seemed to be sincere. Later he says, "Oh, I know, this friendship with Kurt is harmless enough. But you might get fascinated." Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think he is under the impression that anything has happened yet. I think he wants Fran and himself to return home before something does. What do the rest of you think?

 

*even before she speaks, it is so clear that the relationship is OVER. i even believe that she has just given herself to kurt, and that is why she is so hostile to sam for being in her space.*

 

He angers her by saying they should both go back home because, "I'm not taking any chances on another Arnold Iselin." Watch her start when he says that. She is suddenly livid and that's when she tells him she is going to marry Kurt and she says, "I'm going to marry Kurt...I decided just now, just this minute, when I found you hiding behind doors..." Just now? Is this what decides her, Sam getting her mad? No, probably not. It's the telling little speech that follows. She accuses of him of never understanding her, never appreciating the sacrifices she made, never really knowing her, etc. These words have a resounding effect on the story for me, we finally get something from her other than the fear of growing old. She has other baggage and it's got Sam's name written all over it.

 

*there is nothing sam can do to change that-- and yet sam loves her so much, he'll let her go to make her happy... even if it causes him tremendous grief. sam always put fran above himself.*

 

In a remarkable display of consideration for her, he says, "I wish you'd put it off for a couple of months...I'd just like you to feel sure about Kurt." I had no impression that he said this to bide time in the hopes of getting her back for himself. He was thinking of her. Agree or disagree?

 

She says, "Well, it's my funeral now, isn't it?" She is so out of love with Sam she probably feels she has nothing to lose at this point. Yes?

 

=

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hi laffite....yes i can see your viewpoint. the great thing about film is that it is open to the many interpretations of each viewer.

 

and i really have enjoyed this thread. thanx for thinking of it & sharing your thoughts....'dodsworth' is one of my all -time favorite films.

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I agree that the scene with Sam and Fran in the doorway and her covering up was the final point in the relationship. First, she in not all that uncovered. Second, an earlier scene goes to great length to show that they are comfortable. Sam runs around in his shorts. He changes into his pajamas. Fran does the same. All without a hint of reserve.

 

I find some fault with Sam as well in all this. He is too weak. It is one thing to let his wife have some male friends but over and over she seems to flaunt the extent of her relationship in Sam's face. That doesn't make him angry along the way. He finally loses it when his stuff is out of place at home. He can't really confront her. Not until the end can he let go on her. Even then it is more about having convinced himself of his love for Mary Astor that I think finally allows him to let her have it.

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*I find some fault with Sam as well in all this. He is too weak. It is one thing to let his wife have some male friends but over and over she seems to flaunt the extent of her relationship in Sam's face. That doesn't make him angry along the way.*

 

Yes, he is weak, and he says as much himself. But it?s not because he is a weak man, per se, it?s because he loves her so much. In that long brilliant scene that you refer to, getting dressed, not covering up etc., he actually says, ?I think I?ve been weak with you long enough,? and this was just before she sprung her villa-for-the-summer alone with whose-its idea. She?s very adamant about doing this, not taking no for an answer...but when he insists on staying, she makes this remarkable speech:

 

"O Sam, you must go home, you simply must. I can't be torn like this any longer...if you and I are going to get along together, you've got to let me alone this summer...remember I did make a home for you once and I'll do it again, only you've got to let me have my fling now because you're simply rushing at old age, Sam, and I'm not ready for that yet."

 

She says this not as an ultimatum, no longer with adamant insistence. She dropped that tone completely. When she says the above, it comes across as a plea, almost as if she were a teenager asking her parents if she could go to summer camp or something, and it is without the slightest hint of manipulation. She is very sincere and he listens to her say this and relents. He will go home. Read again what she said with his ears. He believes that she is going through a phase and he agrees because he loves her and trusts her and wants her to get this out of her system so she will return to normal and make that home for him again like she did before.

 

It still seems foolish and/or naive of him to let her do this, then or now, but I think the audience back then was not supposed to necessarily view him as some damn fool at that moment but as a man who was trying to understand her and let her have her way in the short run so that he may have her once again in the long run, just as before.

 

*He finally loses it when his stuff is out of place at home. He can't really confront her.*

 

Yes, he's upset because she's not there to run things but what really gets him is the letter from her wanting a few more months in Europe. When he talks to his friend (Spring Byington) he says simply, "Fran is just afraid, afraid of growing old." Again, he is trying to understand her and doesn't want to believe that she could actually betray him or really want to leave him.

 

But he can't wait any longer and he realizes that something has happened. He has them watched and he arranges this meeting with the three of them. So he DOES confront her...finally. And he confronts her with Kurt as well. But, as you imply, all too late.

 

*Not until the end can he let go on her. Even then it is more about having convinced himself of his love for Mary Astor that I think finally allows him to let her have it.*

 

I don?t think he had to convince himself at that point, he was already in love with Edith. The only reason he went back to Fran was out of a sense of duty. He did not love her any more. He says to Edith, I?ve got to take care of her. A man?s habits get plenty strong in 20 years.? That?s not love. He said to Edith, ?It?s giving you up that is hard.? That?s love. So I don?t think he was still hanging on to Fran so much. He felt responsible. It?s only when he saw Fran in her worst books with all selfishness and presumptuousness that he decided that it wasn?t worth it.

 

//

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*SPOILERS AHEAD!*

 

Everyone has written so well about this film and the relationship between Sam and Fran. This is one of my favorite films and I just wanted to offer a few random rambling thoughts.

 

We learn early that Fran has been after Sam to sell his company and Sam seems eager to begin a new chapter in his life. As he listens to Pearson's criticism he says wants to see Europe and get a new perspective on himself and....

 

Dodsworth-1.jpg?t=1259025154

Dodsworth-2-1.jpg?t=1259025187

 

Fran sure looks happy there.

 

I don't think either of them could foresee what would happen.

 

Fran has been a dutiful wife. She has looked after her husband for twenty years. She was probably content for a while, a big fish in the small pond of Zenith, but I think she sees this as a new beginning. She is afraid of growing old more than she is afraid of growing old with Sam. She wants him to change but she seems to quickly abandon that idea out of hopelessness.

 

Fran perceives Europe as ultra sophisticated, a place of class distinctions, old money, and the idle rich. Sam is interested in Europe's past, it's achievements. Fran is so concerned about appearances she can't even allow herself the simple pleasure of a sidewalk cafe. Sam is comfortable with himself, an enthusiastic tourist who wants to take his measure of the old world and bring it back home with him.

 

This duality of mindsets that runs throughout the film shows American values as provincial but straightforward while European values are sophisticated but empty. The Europe of *Dodsworth* seems a museum piece, a stalled grandeur inhabited by scheming lotharios and cynical women, bereft of a motivating spirit. Upper class America is shown as almost naive in it's driving ambition. A land where people are always on the make and you work until you die. Sam and Fran don't represent these extremes as much as they are lost amidst them.

 

Sam wants to enjoy life for it's own sake. Enjoy his freedom to do as he wants. Fran wants something more. She wants to live and she sees the sparkle of Europe as a dream she has perhaps kept with her since returning from her schooling abroad when she was just a girl. It represents her youth and an escape from the routine she has kept up in Zenith for so long. She knows where that routine will end up, but a life in Europe is an unanswered question.

 

Now that I've gotten that off my chest :) doesn't Fran have such a beguiling smile:

 

Dodsworth-3.jpg?t=1259044989

 

Dodsworth-4.jpg?t=1259045026

 

We are also presented with Edith Cortright, she's lost too, but she knows it. She seems to be drifting, waiting for something, but too tired to pursue it. There is a sadness about her but also an undeniable warmth, a kind demeanor and a wisdom that speaks of past mistakes.

 

Dodsworth.jpg?t=1259045227

Dodsworth-1.jpg?t=1259045293

Dodsworth-2.jpg?t=1259045337

 

Others have mentioned the long scene in the hotel room between Fran and Sam. It is possibly my favorite scene. It is a very adult scene that we don't get in many films of the thirties. The comfortable casualness of a married couple who have been together many years, they are very honest here as Fran confronts Sam and he realizes how far Fran has drifted from him.

 

Dodsworth.jpg?t=1259046443

 

Everyone has done a wonderful job of discussing their relationship. I hope to comment on that soon. In the meantime I will say I really do like Fran despite her behavior. I can understand her fears and I can even forgive her foolishness. When she is left alone after her meeting with Kurt and the Baroness I really feel for her. It is her funeral now.

 

I think it's important to remember that Fran does have her own money. A brewer's daughter, but a rich brewer's daughter, who was able to attend school abroad. She doesn't act out of any motivation for money, she may seek status, but I think she mainly acts on her raw feelings and her haunting fears. Left alone she seems to have suddenly aged ten years. I feel sorry for her:

 

Dodsworth-5.jpg?t=1259047133

 

It's getting late so I'll wrap up here shortly but I wanted to mention that while I really liked Edith, I was disappointed in her trying to shield Sam from Fran's phone call at the end. I thought it was beneath her. I know why she did it, but I didn't like it.

 

Yes I confess I was torn more than I should have been. Strangely, there was a part of me that wanted Sam and Fran to reconcile. I can't really understand it myself. Still, when he leaves Edith, it is simply out of loyalty and I knew he had to come back. Fran must pay her penance, and Sam will no doubt find his happiness with Edith.

 

He really went the limit with Fran.

 

Laffite, I do agree that Fran's final scene was written poorly, there were many subtle moments in this film and that certainly wasn't one of them. I think a more restrained scene might have been more effective but I know the point had to be made.

 

It really is a unique and powerful film.

 

Two of my favorite shots:

 

Sam having to leave Fran:

 

Dodsworth-6.jpg?t=1259047750

 

Sam having to leave Edith:

 

Dodsworth-7.jpg?t=1259047792

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*We are also presented with Edith Cortright, she's lost too, but she knows it. She seems to be drifting, waiting for something, but too tired to pursue it. There is a sadness about her but also an undeniable warmth, a kind demeanor and a wisdom that speaks of past mistakes.*

 

This is very nice, Molo. I agree completely...and I do like Edith. :x

 

*It's getting late so I'll wrap up here shortly but I wanted to mention that while I really liked Edith, I was disappointed in her trying to shield Sam from Fran's phone call at the end. I thought it was beneath her. I know why she did it, but I didn't like it.*

 

Yes, but I forgive her. There was something all to human about that and I see it less as deceit and more a sort of understandable momentary desperation. She knew in the long run that she would not keep Fran from talking with Sam.

 

And later she says something rather good which might redeem her a bit. After Sam has talked with Fran, Edith says, "No, I won't make you choose just between two women, but think of Moscow, Seattle, and Samarkand," referring to his new business plans. She is thinking a little in terms of his own future too. I don't know if that cut's any ice with you, Molo ;)

 

And besides, maybe we can just chalk up her interference with the phone thing to an effective dramatic device to create a little suspense. :)

 

*Everyone has done a wonderful job of discussing their relationship. I hope to comment on that soon.*

 

Please do, Molo.

 

Also, great opening comments and writing regarding the respective "civilizations" in Dodsworth.

 

Just this for now. I'll read again on the morrow and comment further. Thanks for your comments and the caps.

 

//

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I'd never heard of this film until TCM first showed it a few years ago, but it automatically became one of my top 10 favorite films of all time. I was blown away by Huston's performance as Sam and am still amazed by it after I've seen it about 10 times now.

 

However, I find it hard to have any sympathy for Fran, strangely enough, as I am a woman of a certain age. But I think it's because I'm an old maid spinster that I find it frustrating that Fran doesn't really know how good she has it and is willing to throw it all away because of her fear of growing old. From the outset, she strikes me as someone who thinks she's better than everyone, including her husband, complaining to him about how boring her life is--attending garden club luncheons and ordering servants around. I'm sure she was a dutiful wife, but it's her own fault for getting in a rut--like the lovely Maven states "girl, get out of the house and do something." Maybe she is unfulfilled, but she knew what she was getting into when she married an older man with ambitions (I always assumed that Sam was at least 10 years older than her.) Then, she forces Sam to dress in tie & tails for the first night dinner and, while it probably wasn't appropriate at the time, she chides Sam for gently mentioning it in front of Lockhart giving her an excuse to distance herself from her own husband. The way she continually expects Sam to "come here" & "go away" at her whim is maddening. Sam isn't entirely blameless, but he puts up with a lot before he finally says "Love has to stop somewhere short of suicide" which is a great line, by the way.

 

But Chatterton was very effective in the role, or I wouldn't hate Fran so much. Or I wouldn't root so much for Edith & Sam to work out. Gosh, Mary Astor is so great in this movie. I love her so much. She is drifting but she's too strong to wallow in self pity. I allow her that moment of keeping Sam from talking to Fran because she knows it's wrong and she knows Sam better than Fran ever did. Fran tolerated Sam's ambitions but Edith wants to actively participate and be a true helpmate rather than a trophy wife. She senses that even if Sam goes back because of a sense of duty that he'll never be happy again. Too much water under the bridge for that to happen now.

 

Such a great film.

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I enjoyed your post and admired your forthrightness in revealing a way in which this movie touched you personally and I would say too that I?m a guy of a certain age who feels that I have never found the right woman and I too sustained a certain resonance with the attractive and companionable Edith Fortright as one that I never met and who I wish I had. Not to put too fine point on it---I wasn?t pining away too awfully much ;) ---but when I said in the OP that I wouldn?t mind spending a considerable amount of time hanging around with her and simply reading books...well, it must have had some meaning, at least. It?s sobering and a little bit rewarding too to be able to look at a woman and not think of the usual guy things although of course Edith in the form of Mary Astor is very pretty. But it?s those things about her that have already been talked about that would make her such a find. Just how is it that somebody like her and as pretty as she is could be alone for so long---oh well, such is the movies. I too love Mary in this role and she strikes the right cord, saying things that generally can?t be uttered without sounding petulant and spoiled, such as ?I love you and she doesn?t?You might think of me?,? instead coming across as a mature but disappointed woman who is trying to hold on to something that she has just apparently won but about to surely lose. It helps too that she knows she is telling the truth. But the fact that she does look the way she does, young and pretty, certainly adds to her appeal and perhaps makes her a bit too ideal for real life, haha. It?s ironic and of course oh so Hollywood to cast someone like Mary who?s character is supposed to be older that Fran, when in reality Mary Astor was at least 10 years younger than Ruth Chatterton. Mary is perfection as Edith Cortright and it?s probably sacrilegious to even say this but I wonder if it would have been better to cast Edith with someone a little closer to Walter Huston?s age. It?s uncomfortable to think of that because we love Mary so much but if they had done that and found someone as effective as Mary to play the role, it might have served to at least suggest the potential pitfalls of a marriage where there is such a variance in age though hopefully not so much as to come off moralistic. Just a thought. The movies are wonderful, especially these older ones, and there is much to enjoy and feel, even though they may from time to time touch us, as Saul Bellow says as himself in Zelig, ??in ways that we may not want to be touched.? ;) But we survive and enjoy. :)

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