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

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Stack and Durbin
FIRST LOVE (1939). Director: Henry Koster.

"A flat tire on an $8000 automobile -- that's impossible!" -- Barbara

Connie (Deanna Durbin) is the poor relation of the wealthy Clinton family, with whom she goes to live after she graduates from a girls' school. Her uncle (Eugene Pallette) has as little to do as possible with his wife (Leatrice Joy) and spoiled children Barbara (Helen Parrish) and Walter (Lewis Howard), the latter of whom does nothing all day but sit around looking bored and sleepy. Barbara is a little jealous of Connie, and the film takes a Cinderella twist when she conspires to keep Connie away from a ball held by the family of Ted Drake (Robert Stack of Written on the Wind). However, the servants in the household conspire to make sure Connie gets to the ball while the others are delayed for hours. Durbin is quite good in a film clearly tailored for her particular talents, and she does a creditable job with "One Fine Day" from Madame Butterfly, although she's definitely no Renata Tebaldi. The movie has a strange, almost mean-spirited sequence with Connie's old teacher Mrs. Wiggins (Kathleen Howard, who is also very good) warning her away from the life of an old maid schoolteacher,  a whole bunch of whom weep during Butterfly as Wiggins predicts. This was Robert Stack's first movie, and he looks handsome if a little odd. Jack Mulhall and Mary Treen are also in the cast.

Verdict: Durbin fanatics will enjoy; all others beware. **1/2.

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