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

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Eleanor Parker and Patricia Neal
THREE SECRETS (1950). Director: Robert Wise.

"Is he going to be surprised! You know what his grounds [for divorce] were? He said I wasn't a woman!" -- Phyllis, on learning that she's pregnant.

A plane crashes on a mountain and the only survivor is a little boy. As rescue workers prepare for the dangerous two mile ascent, three women arrive on the scene, all of them wondering if the child is the one they gave up for adoption. The little boy was born on the same day as their child, and came from the same orphanage. Susan (Eleanor Parker) is afraid her marriage may not survive if her husband (Leif Ericson) learns she had a child out of wedlock. Phyllis (Patricia Neal) was a war correspondent whose husband (Frank Lovejoy) left her because she was never home and wouldn't conform to being a traditional wife; she learns she is pregnant after he remarries. Ann (Ruth Roman) gave birth to a boy fathered by a conscienceless wealthy man who paid the ultimate price for his callousness. Three Secrets concentrates on the emotional turmoil of the women's lives and not on the harrowing details of the rescue of the boy, which would have been a completely different picture. The three leading ladies all give fine performances, with Parker and Neal being especially notable. Katherine Warren is also good as Susan's mother, and Kenneth Tobey appears briefly as an army officer who catches Susan with her soldier boyfriend (Arthur Franz). The film's premise is contrived but irresistible, but some of it has to be taken with a grain of salt. An orphanage might acquire three baby boys on the same day in a big city, but all three women basically arrive there at the same time, and how likely is it that Phyllis will remember Susan, who she barely speaks to, five years later, reporter or no. But these are minor concerns: the picture plays beautifully, is very well-acted and well-directed, and has a very moving conclusion. David Buttolph's score disconcertingly reworks the melody of "I Get a Kick Out of You." Although it's been unfairly compared to it, this is completely different from A Letter to Three Wives. This was remade for television in 1999.

Verdict: Oh a higher plateau than the usual soap opera. ***1/2.


angelman66 said...

What a great cast, can't believe I have never seen this one. And directed by the great Robert Wise as well. I will definitely check this out.
- C

William said...

It's a terrific picture once you get past some of the contrivances, and all three ladies are on target, especially Neal.