Thursday, January 14, 2010

Prepare to be cloyed

TCM is honoring 1940s child star Margaret O'Brien on her birthday tomorrow. I'd wait until then to mention it, except that I'd like to point out the first movie, Journey For Margaret, which is airing at 6:15 AM ET.

The setting is the start of World War II. Robert Young plays an American journalist working in France and living there with his wife (Laraine Day). With the Nazis coming, the two escape to London, only to be caught up in the Blitz. This is a big problem for them, because the missus is pregnant, and one of the bombs causes her to lose the baby she's carrying. Meanwhile, the husband is doing a story on war orphans, and visits an orphanage, which is where he meets Margaret O'Brien, who is conveniently playing a young girl named Margaret (actually, little miss O'Brien changed her name to Margaret as a result of this movie). Young falls in love with Margaret and one of the young boy orphans, and would like to take both of them to America with him. But, there's a lot of paperwork involved, and then there's getting them room on the transport out of England....

Journey For Margaret was clearly intended to be a sort of propaganda when it was made (it was released in late 1942), probably with the intention of keeping Americans on Britain's side, as well as pointing out to us in the States that we could have had it so much worse. As such, it works fairly well, although you know everything is going to turn out well in the end. The adults are all competent, but not particularly memorable in that most of them had done much better work in the past. As for O'Brien, this was her first movie, and she shows that she's already a pro, knowing how to turn on the treacly sentiment to a level so high you might worry about getting diabetes from all the sweetness. With performances like this, it probably shouldn't be too much of a surprise that she didn't remain a successful actress once she grew up. Still, I know there are a lot of fans of hers out there, so I'm sure they'll love all the O'Brien movies. And to be fair, there are movies in which she's better, such as Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, although that one isn't airing tomorrow.

Journey For Margaret has apparently not been released to DVD yet, so you'll have to catch the TCM airings.

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