Thursday, August 28, 2014

Not the tattooed movie

Joseph Cotten will be TCM's star for Summer Under the Stars tomorrow, August 29. The first of his movies on the schedule is Lydia, at 6:00 AM.

Obviously, Joseph Cotten does not play the title character; that honor goes to Merle Oberon. At the beginning of the movie, Oberon's Lydia MacMillian is a wealthy spinster who is being honored for her charitable work. Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick (that's Cotten) hears the ceremony on the radio, and decides to pay a visit on Miss MacMillian, since the two knew each other decades ago, back in the dark ages of the 19th century. There was a professional relationship, but there was also a personal relationship, as Michael was one of several boyfriends Lydia had coming in and out of her life. You just know they're going to reminisce about the past....

That reminiscing comes a couple of days later at Michael's apartment. He's managed to bring together three of Lydia's four lovers: himself; the dashing (at least when he was young) Bob Willard (George Reeves); and the blind pianist Frank André (Hans Jaray). The only one missing is the man Lydia claims was the one true love of her life, sailor Richard Mason (Alan Marshal). Michael, however, assures Lydia that Mason is going to show up. With that, the four start discussing their collective past.

Michael knew Lydia first. His father was butler to Lydia and her grandmother Sarah (Edna May Oliver) when Lydia was young, and Sarah was an inveterate hypochondriac. Since young Michael has just become a doctor, Dad brings him in, which is how Michael meets Lydia, and they're taken with each other. But Bob, the Yale football hero, is also taken with Lydia, and he tries to steal Lydia out from under Michael. When Michael goes off to fight the Spanish-American War, Lydia meets a blind kid which is what introduces her to the charity work. That's how she meets Frank, the blind pianist. And then at a ball she meets that sailor, who isn't like the other guys. It goes on like this for another hour or so.

There's something not quite right about Lydia although I find it hard to put into words exactly what it is. It's more that, as the movie wore on, I found myself caring less and less about any of these characters. We know that Lydia isn't going to end up with any of her suitors, and the sailor just seems to come out of nowhere. Lydia probably ought to be a very good movie, but it winds up fizzling out into a mess.

I don't think Lydia is available on DVD, so you're going to have to catch the rare TCM showing.

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