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

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Laughton, Wyman and Vance with little Freddy 
THE BLUE VEIL (1951). Director: Curtis Bernhardt.

In the maternity ward widow Louise Mason (Jane Wyman) asks to see her newborn but the doctor has to tell her that the child has passed away. Seeking employment, Louise is told [somewhat tactlessly] that she might enjoy being a nanny, a situation she at first rejects. However she becomes a nanny to the little boy of a widower named Fred Begley (Charles Laughton); this is only the first of many positions she has in this episodic film. As the years go by, Louise passes up her own happiness, such as with suitor Gerald Kean (Richard Carlson), when she feels the children she looks after need her more. There is an eventual custody battle over a child virtually abandoned by its mother, and a very moving wind-up. Wyman is excellent, as usual, and she has a stellar supporting cast, including a wonderful Laughton, a solid Carlson, Vivian Vance as Laughton's secretary, Agnes Moorehead and Joan Blondell as subsequent employers, little Natalie Wood as a needy child, and Don Taylor as one of her grown-up charges. This same year Vance became as famous as Wyman and Laughton when she took on the role of Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy; this movie proves there was more to her than Ethel [wonderful as she was]. A priceless bit in Blue Veil has a now-senior Louise being told that she's too old to look after children but she could always get a job as a maid -- such easy work!

Verdict: Tearjerker supreme. ***1/2.


Neil A Russell said...

I'm going to have to check this movie out, I've always been a big Vance fan and movies with her are pretty scarce.
I always make it a point to catch "The Great Race", she looks especially hot playing Arthur O'Connell's wife.

William said...

Ethel Mertz --hot? Well, why not; she was actually an attractive woman and I imagine there are those who have fantasies about Ethel in that tight-fitting leopard skin episode when the gals go to charm school on "I Love Lucy." Or the slicked-back "Grace Kelly" look that so affronted Fred on another episode when they all went to the country club dance.

Anyway, be forewarned that Vance is good in "Blue Veil" but not on screen for very long, unfortunately.

Neil A Russell said...

I think the makeup people frumpied her up for the show.
There's some pics of her from the 30s and 40s floating around the net that show off some of her better features.
Probably what I liked the most about her was the personality she poured out on the screen, almost like someone you know and take an immediate liking to.

William said...

Yes, that's exactly the quality Vance had, and apparently it was true that she was contractually obligated to remain heavier than Lucille Ball during the run of the show.