Friday, July 13, 2018

Her name is neither Eileen nor Walter

Last week TCM ran a quartet of little-seen movies from Republic Pictures. They were all new to me, so I recorded three of them, not having enough room on my DVR to be interested in Trigger Jr. One of them that's available on DVD is That Brennan Girl.

Mona Freeman plays Ziggy Brennan, who at the start of the movie is a twentysomething woman in San Francisco on Mothers' Day, 1946. She passes by a flower shop, sees a young child buy one flower for Mom, and then thinks back to Mother's Day, 1938. On that day Ziggy went into the same florist's shop and bought one flower for her mother Natalie (June Duprez).

However, it didn't turn out to be a fortuitous gift. When Ziggy gets home to give the flower to Mom, Mom has a male visitor in the apartment. And Mom is none too pleased when Ziggy calls her Mom; apparently she's been trying to pass Ziggy off as her kid sister. Mom, you see, is a small-time con artist, grifting men for whatever she can get out of them. And Mom hopes to teach her daughter the tricks of the trade. Some mother.

One of Mom's friends and partners in crime is Denny Regan (James Dunn), an Irish-American with a stereotypical Irish mother with a heart of gold (Dorothy Vaughan), who gets a lot of scenes with her son that are really just a set up for her big scene with Ziggy late in the movie. Anyhow, Denny and Natalie teach Ziggy about the con game, and Denny takes a bit of on older brother attitude toward Ziggy, it seems.

Time passes, and World War II comes. One night, the gang makes the acquaintance of a navy man on leave, Martin Neilson (William Marshall). He's from the small-town Midwest and this is his first chance to be in a big city, so he's taking it. Denny notices Martin's watch with an interesting band, and as the night goes on, Ziggy gets Martin drunk enough to steal the watch with Martin being too drunk to remember. But Ziggy has a conscience, unlike her mother and Denny. Ziggy feels bad about what she did, and besides, she thinks she might be falling in love with Martin. So she goes looking for him to give him back the watch.

It must have been some whirlwind romance, because Ziggy and Martin get married before Martin can go back to the war in the Pacific. We see a brief shot of Martin being killed in action, drowning when his ship is hit. (That watch is a dead giveaway.) But wouldn't you know it, in the one night that Ziggy and Martin were married before he went back to war, that was enough to get her knocked up.

At this point, the movie becomes a melodrama of whether Ziggy will be able to take care of her child -- it's not as if Mom wants anything to do with her, because having a baby this young will only crimp the con game. You could always hire a baby-sitter, but what happens if you hire one who's negligent? That's exactly what happens to poor Ziggy....

That Brennan Girl isn't a bad movie, but it's another one that I wouldn't consider something special. If you're a fan of movies like Barbara Stanwyck's Stella Dallas, then That Brennan Girl is one I think you'll really like. For people who aren't necessarily fans of older movies, I'd start with a lot of other things first.

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