Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Scandal at Scourie

Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of actor Walter Pidgeon. So it's unsurprising that TCM should be sending the morning and afternoon looking at his films. Except that they're looking at his movies from the 1950s which I find somewhat less interesting. Well, I shouldn't say they're uninteresting; it's just that they're 1950s MGM movies which to me has a certain meaning. A good example of this is Scandal at Scourie, airing at 12:45 PM.

Donna Corcoran plays Patsy, a young girl living at a Catholic orphanage in the Anglophone part of Quebec, back at the turn of the century when the province still had a reasonable Anglophone minority. Unfortunately, there's an accident at the orphanage, which results in it being burned to the ground. Thankfully for the nuns, there are other Catholic religious institutions all over the place, so they're able to go west to Manitoba, but with the lack of space at the new place they'd really be grateful if they could adopt off some of the kids they've been caring for.

The train that's taking the nuns and children to Manitoba stops in the town of Scourie, Ontario, and little Patsy gets off to walk around, just like everybody else. However, she meets Mrs. Victoria McChesney (Greer Garson). McChesney and her husband Patrick (Walter Pidgeon) are childless, and she is captivated by poor little Patsy. It doesn't hurt that Patsy is of Irish descent, so she immediately thinks Mrs. McChesney, who is also from the island, is one of her kind. Ah, but she isn't. Mrs. McChesney is from Ulster, and a Protestant. Still, she wants to adopt this charming little girl. The nuns agree, but only on condition that Patsy be raised Catholic, since she was already baptized and everything.

And that's where the problems begin. I mentioned that the McChesneys are Protestant, but more than that, Patrick is involved in local politics. And, wouldn't you believe it, there are people who think that the McChesney's adopting a little Papist girl is a bad thing. They'll have no qualms in using that against him if he decides to stand as a candidate for the legislative assembly. But that's not the only problem. There's another kid from the orphanage who was adopted in Scourie, and that kid is a jerk who has no qualms in saying that it was Patsy who was responsible for the orphanage in Quebec being burned down if doing so will help his new family.

So Patrick gets the idea that perhaps he shouldn't adopt Patsy since he's thinking about himself first. And that causes Patsy to run away, just as the big dangerous storm is about to hit Scourie. This is also where I really start to have problems with the movie. I mentioned at the beginning that this is one of those 1950s MGM films, which implies a lot of things. MGM always seemed glossier than a studio like Warner Bros., and certainly compared to a studio like RKO. That glossiness made movies that ought otherwise have a hard edge, such as Johnny Eager, sometimes unrealistic. But more importantly, by the early 1950s, Dory Schary was in charge at MGM, and wanted to make socially relevant films. In the case of something like Scandal at Scourie, you know this is going to mean we'll get a nice tidy social lesson at the end of the movie and that everything is going to wind up happily for Patsy and the McChesneys. Also, being MGM, it's handled in an oh-so-wholesome way.

Not that the movie is particularly bad. It's well made, and everybody gives a professional performance. It's just that those MGM B movies from the era are of a type, and a type that can sometimes be irritating.

I'm not certain if Scandal at Scourie is available on DVD.

No comments: