Friday, April 30, 2010

Brittania Mews

Tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM ET, the Fox Movie Channel is showing The Forbidden Street.

Maureen O'Hara stars as Addie Culver, a young woman in Victorian London who lives in a middle-class family where the house overlooks the decidedly working-class street Brittania Mews, where good people like her just don't go. Addie falls in love with her art teacher, Mr. Lambert (Dana Andrews), and when her parents disapprove of this, they decide to sell the house to retire to the country. Addie doesn't go with them, instead marrying Lambert, and setting up house in Brittania Mews. Lambert has dreams of being a serious artist, but has to do teaching to pay the bills; bills which eventually begin to pile up, causing tension between the two. Ultimately, the result is a drunken argument in which Lambert falls down the stairs leading up to their apartment (or is he pushed?) and dies. The police rule that Lambert died as the result of an accidental fall, but one old lady, known as the Sow (Sybil Thorndike) claims to have seen Addie push her husband down the stairs and begins to blackmail Addie.

At the same time, one of the witnesses is a would-be solicitor named Gilbert Lauderdale (played by Dana Andrews in a dual role; at least he's not John Lund). He takes a shining to Addie, and discovers that one of the things Lambert bequeathed to Addie is a chest full of marionettes. Gilbert begins to learn how to manipulate the puppets, eventually turning Addie's place on Brittania Mews into a successful theater. Along the way, Gilbert falls in love with Addie, but can't marry her because he's already got a wife who won't grant him a divorce. After a time, Addie's sister visits the theater, and, believing that Addie and Gilbert are married, suggests that they come to the country and make up with her parents....

The Forbidden Street isn't a bad movie, but it's one that's not certain what it wants to do. Addie veers pretty wildly from one episode to the next, although the movie doesn't have the feel of a good episodic movie like I Remember Mama, or any of the anthology movies Fox was making around that time (such as O. Henry's Full House, which is on the FMC schedule for next Thursday at 10:00 AM). Still, O'Hara gives a good performance, and everybody else is at least competent.

The Forbidden Street was originally released under the title Brittania Mews, although it doesn't seem to be available on DVD under either title.

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