Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

LADIES IN RETIREMENT


LADIES IN RETIREMENT (1941). Director: Charles Vidor.

Ellen Creed (Ida Lupino) is secretary-companion to wealthy Leonora Fiske (Isobel Elsom) on a large, isolated estate. Learning that her two somewhat "eccentric" sisters are about to be tossed out onto the street and possibly into an institution, Ellen importunes her employer to let the women come and stay with them for awhile. But even the kindly Mrs. Fiske can only take so much, and after a time the dithering, rather batty women drive her to distraction. When Ellen protests her treatment of them, she is fired -- so now all three sisters have nowhere to go. What to do? What to do? Ellen eventually comes up with a solution...

Lupino is good in the movie, as are Elsa Lanchester and Edith Barrett as the sisters. Louis Hayward, who at the time was married to Lupino, is fine as Ellen's roguish nephew, and Evelyn Keyes sparkles as maid Lucy. Isobel Elsom practically steals the picture, however, as the charming if practical Mrs. Fiske. The macabre movie is pictorially interesting and absorbing, but when all is said and done the characters are almost all unsympathetic and after awhile you don't really care what happens to them. There isn't nearly enough suspense or tension, and Vidor never really brings it to a full bloody boil.

Verdict: Portrait of a lady not so retiring. **1/2.

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