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THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
Collier's Movies: This Week's Preview
by Warren Phillips
There's so much saintliness in Teresa Wright's
Enchantment, that Goldwyn cried, "I love it so much, I don't
want to make money from it"
Collier's Weekly December 11, 1948 pages 46,
Miss Wright plays the sweet, family girl in pictures --
the kind of girl she is as Mrs. Niven Busch in real life
Around the Hollywood publicity mills, Teresa Wright is known as Miss
Bad Copy. She's copped an Academy Award Oscar -- but doesn't cart it about
with her. Her home, in which she lives with her author husband, Niven Busch,
is never pointed out by the rubberneck guides. She has never been invited
to judge a chicken-cleaning contest at the opening of a new supermarket.
Her wide-eyed innocent physiog has never appeared on a movie magazine.
She likes to sit around in the Goldwyn
commissary in a simple house dress and no fingernail polish, put a big
pair of hornrims on a shiny nose (she's nearsighted) and explain to interviewers,
"I'm just another housewife with a part-time job."
It's just this sort of thing that has brought Miss Wright roles in
which she can play herself: the sweet, family-type girl, the kind voted
The Woman Every Average American Male Wants to Marry. It's the sort of
thing that restores your faith in Hollywood, proving, as it does, that
virtue is not only its own reward but can bag you six figures a year for
steak and children's shoes. So it's only natural that Miss Wright should
now turn up as the chief exponent of sweetness and light in Mr. Samuel
Goldwyn's newest heart-clutcher called Enchantment.
Let us inspect the history and contents of this charming, tasteful
and expensive dish of a romance. Back in 1946, Mr. Goldwyn
decided that after his turbulent The
Best Years of Our Lives, we needed a little relaxation -- maybe a good
cry. So he picked one of those three-generation novels called Take Three
Tenses, written by a British lady names Rumer Godden. Then he assigned
John Patrick who'd done the hit play The Hasty Heart, to put the sentiment
of the book on the screen without sloping over into Hearts and Flowers
After refusing the job three times, Mr. Patrick finally succumbed.
The book is one of the most complicated ever written. It covers a span
of 99 years, and Miss Godden shuttles between past, present and future
to give the effect of everything happening at once. Mr. Patrick dropped
an unborn generation, and has managed to grind out a very tender story
that at times bobbles the Adam's apple, and is bound to be called a Four
Handkerchief Picture by the critics.
Mr. Goldwyn, who
never spends $50,000 when $500,000 will do, has mounted and cast the picture
with his usual taste and care, trying to make it as British as all get
out. Every accent is properly clipped, and even the porridge served in
one of the scenes was cooked by an imported British chef, using an old
The Plot Thickens -- and Thickens
We'd call Enchantment a modern Smilin' Through with a few Cinderella
influences. The idea is that a charming old house at 99 Wiltshire Place,
London, is inhabited by a crusty curmudgeon of an old British general named
Sir Rollo Dane. Sir Rollo's life has been ruined by a dead witch of a sister
named Selina, who had been possessed of a brother complex.
It seems that years before, the Danes had adopted a poor little orphan
named Lark to who sister Selina had taken a distinct dislike. Lark grew
up into a beauty, and Rollo, who knew a good thing when he laid a gay eye
on it, fell in love with her. Whereupon the nasty Selina stepped in and
broke up the romance with a lot of dirty work you somehow don't associate
with the British upper class.
Lark went off to Italy to marry a handsome marchese she didn't
care a pizza pie for, and Rollo hardened into a lonely old chap who conversed
with the vanished Lark whenever he grew lightheaded, uttering sad things
like: "Don't empty your heart; it will only fill up with bitterness."
So much for the past tense. The present tense opens in London during
the blitz. Who should turn up at 99 Wiltshire Place but Grizel Dane, Sir
Rollo's great-niece; and one Pax Masterson, a wounded R.A.F.-er who is
none other than Lark's nephew. Pax is promptly attracted to Grizel. Grizel,
however, is having None. She's been Hurt.
This modern story begins developing, running a parallel course with
the Rollo-Lark imbroglio of the past via a series of skillfully contrived
flashbacks and forths. Once again things come to the point where two lovers
are about to be torn apart in the old house with the whispering walls,
what with Grizel giving Pax the well-known boot. Sir Rollo climbs handily
out of the Slough of Despond long enough to bring out what's been tagged
as a happy-unhappy ending.
David Niven does a solid
double job as Sir Rollo, young and old; and a brand-new little mopsy named
Gigi Perreau, as the child Lark, already has the Hollywood boys referring
to Margaret O'Brien as an old lady.
But it is the wholesome talents of Teresa Wright with which we're
tangling. As the stepped-on orphan she progresses in a calm and capable
way from Cinderella to raving beauty, firmly grappling with your emotions
as she goes, wringing big tears from you.
Now to Teresa's life: Born in New York on October 27, 1920 [sic],
her mother died when Teresa was seven. She went to Columbia High
in Maplewood, New Jersey, and on the day she received an autographed picture
from Helen Hayes, she decided to become
Broadway Was a Soft Touch
After wrestling with props and playing little girls at the Wharf
Theater in Provincetown (where Bette Davis
had learned how to act) for two years, little Teresa decided Broadway was
ready for her. Did long hungry months of discouragement follow? They did
not! Miss Wright had barely tacked Helen Hayes
over the mantle of her New York digs, when a call came from Jed Harris,
and she found herself understudying the lead in Our Town. Later she played
the part on the road.
Another summer of stock, then Teresa gunned her way into the role
of Mary, in Life With Father, which opened back with Father was still a
boy. Sam Goldwyn caught
her in the part and she wound up in Hollywood being sweet and young in
that vial of vitriol, The Little
Teresa arrived in Hollywood and almost turned the joint upside down
by reporting for work immediately. "She always seemed to be panting
a little," William Wyler,
who directed The Foxes, recalls.
Such devotion to duty pays off. In a year Teresa was playing Mrs.
Lou Gehrig opposite Gary Cooper's
Lou in Pride of the Yankees.
While she was doing it, she met Niven Busch, then Mr. Goldwyn's
story editor. Niven saw her in the daily rushes and fell in love with her.
One day he called up her agent and wangled an introduction. Six months
later they were engaged, then in May 1942, married.
Today the Busches live without a swimming pool in a simple ranch
house overlooking the San Fernando Valley. They have three dogs, six cats
and several horses, which keep breaking loose and galloping off in the
general direction of Gene Autry's studio.
"They want to star," observes Teresa, as the family piles
in the car and gives chase.
The Busches also have four children. Busch has two by a former marriage.
He and Teresa have two -- a boy and a girl. It is a happy little madhouse
from which Busch escapes to an office when he has a novel spawning.
Most Busch novels are written with Mama in mind for the screenplay.
Teresa was booked to play the Jennifer
Jones part in Duel in the Sun, but had to bow out because she was expecting
at the time. She always gives Niven advice when he's writing, and he isn't
adverse to kibitzing her about a new part.
On the personable side, Teresa is five feet two and a half, about
105, has brown hair and green eyes. She likes to garden, and hates to play
card or parlor games. She's shy of snakes and phony parts. She like to
eat, doesn't smoke and likes to get her eight hours per night. She'd just
as soon go on playing good girls as long as they're good enough. She's
absent-minded, and often wears a new dress with the price tags waving.
Her great extravagance is buying a dozen hats at a time -- and not
wearing any of them.
As for Mr. Goldwyn,
we are reliably informed he is enchanted with Enchantment. When he first
viewed it after its assembling, he is said to have cried out between tears
of pride and emotion, "It's a beautiful picture. I love it so much
I don't want to make any money from it. I just want everybody in the world
to see it."
© 1948 Collier's Weekly
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