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

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Merle Oberon
LYDIA (1941). Director: Julien Duvivier.

"If I can't have all there is I don't want less."

An unmarried elderly woman named Lydia (Merle Oberon) invites a few old male friends to a gathering where she reviews her life and loves over the past few decades. Bob (George Reeves) runs off with Lydia after her grandmother Sarah's (Edna May Oliver) disapproval, but they never make it to the altar. Frank Andre (Hans Jaray) is a blind pianist whose love for Lydia remains unrequited. Michael (Joseph Cotten) is all set to marry Lydia but she doesn't feel the passion for him that she feels for Richard (Alan Marshal of House on Haunted Hill), a handsome sailor who tells her he must go off to settle some past romantic affairs and to wait for her. Well, it'll be a long wait ... Lydia is an unusual and unpredictable movie in that it defies romantic Hollywood conventions and doesn't offer up a traditional happy ending, meaning some viewers will find it unsatisfying, but it's just that difference that makes the movie interesting. The performances are excellent throughout, with a luminescent Oberon; George Reeves [The Adventures of Sir Galahad] proving that he was more than just Superman (whom he would essay a few years later); Joseph Cotten as good as ever; Alan Marshal charming as the mountebank; and Edna May Oliver nearly snatching away the movie from everyone else with her peppery portrayal of the hypochondriac grandmother. Sara Allgood is also on target, as usual, as the mother of a blind boy (Billy Ray) that Lydia befriends and Gertrude Hoffman is fine in a very small role. This has a nice score by Miklos Rozsa as well. The film is in some ways similar to Letter from an Unknown Woman, particularly in its conclusion.

Verdict: Romantic yet uncompromising. ***.

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