Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ever in My Heart

IMDb says that Barbara Stanwyck was born on July 16, 1907. However, TCM is marrking the anniversary of her birth tomorrow, July 15, with a morning and afternoon of her movies. One that's relatively infrequently seen is the interesting Ever in My Heart, at 11:45 AM.

Stanwyck plays Mary Archer, a nice young woman living circa 1909 in one of those idyllic small college towns, this one founded by her own ancestors a few centuries earlier. She's of a fairly high social stratum, and the feeling among her family is that she's going to marry her good friend and longtime friend of the family Jeff (Ralph Bellamy). Of course, you know that since Jeff was played by Ralph Bellamy, there's no way he's going to end up with the woman. In fact, Jeff introduces Mary to her future husband. While studying in Germany, Jeff met Hugo Wilbrant (Otto Kruger), who comes over to America with his friend. He sees Mary, and it's love at first sight.

Hugo and Mary get married, to the shock of the rest of her family, who think that nothing good can come of not marrying the right kind. And it's old American stock that is the right kind, they think. But no matter. Mary and Hugo love each other, and Hugo gets a job teaching chemistry at the local college. Hugo likes his life, and has good friends in the rest of the community. Indeed, Hugo likes it so much that he decides to become an American citizen, and all his friends celebrate right along with him by giving him a cup to commemorate the occasion.

But of course you know that it's not all going to be a bed of roses, or else they wouldn't have been able to make a movie. The conflict comes in 1914, with the onset of World War I. The US remained neutral for several years, of course, but in mid-1915, with the sinking of the Lusitania, there was a bit more agitation to try to get the US into the war on the side of the British. Indeed, the British themselves started up a propaganda campaign to get the Americans to believe that the Germans were just terrible Huns. And quite a few Americans believed the propaganda.

It's not much mentioned nowadays, but even though something like a quarter of the American population at the time was at least partly of German descent, there was quite a lot of hatred not just of the Germans in Germany, but of the German-Americans in the US. It was so extreme that sauerkraut was renamed "liberty cabbage". And unsurprisingly, the anti-German sentiment hits Hugo and his family. Everybody turns on him on a dime, excepting Mary and their child.

So Hugo decides that the only thing he can do is abandon America and go back to Germany without his wife and child. Yeah, this plot twist is a bit nuts, but it's only leading up to the really nutty stuff at the end. Let's just say that the movie gets pretty harsh on the one hand, and pretty silly on the other.

Despite my feeling that Ever in My Heart has a thoroughly ludicrous ending, I still found the movie well worth watching. The idea of turning on one's former friends in a time of war is one that always bears repeating. Stanwyck, for her part, does a good job in roles like this. She was never less than professional, and this is by no means one of the worse pictures she was in. It's no Double Indemnity, of course, but then most pictures aren't. Still, if you haven't seen it before, take this opportunity to watch it.

I'm not certain whether Ever in My Heart is available on DVD, so you'll have to catch it on TCM if you want to see it.

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