A rare mis-step for Miss Dunne
What can have been on Irene Dunne's mind when she accepted the role in
this distasteful account of a woman of negotiable morals? Certainly,
the Irene Dunne of the 1940's, whose reputation as a faithful Roman
Catholic who publicly abhorred smut, and shunned any film scripts or
Hollywood society, that might be even be remotely construed as
corrupting public morals--would never have become associated with such
a dubious project as this.
Perhaps, New York's Cardinal Spellman, in his private audience with
her, gave her a good dressing down over this role? That we will likely
never know, inasmuch as she never spoke of it in later years, though
she did denounce her morally suspect, (though quite successful) 1932
film, "Back Street" as "trash".
Certainly by the time she received the distinguished St. Robert
Bellarmine Award in 1965 for exemplary public Catholicism, "Ann
Vickers" was no longer recalled by the general public.
Suffice it to say that "Ann Vickers" works neither as entertainment or
Miss Dunne's role as an adulterous social worker, who sleeps around,
(between reforming prisons and writing a best seller on correctional
rehabilitation) doesn't dovetail with her temperament or on screen
demeanor, and one keeps suspecting that the whole thing is a kind of
tongue in cheek gag, (what else can we think when we witness a montage
of Miss Dunne's sympathetic beatific gaze superimposed over a shot of a
female prisoner being scourged?) By films end, she has renounced
careerism in favor of marriage, (to crusty convict Walter Huston no
less--and what kind of lunacy would ever conceive of pairing these two
Irene Dunne completists will no doubt wish to see this curiosity, if
only for the chance to hear her promise to rehabilitate a cocaine
addict under her charge: "I'm going to get you off the snow cold
Well, if nothing else such sordid goings on, do present her light years
from her usual milieu of operatic trills, furbellowed chiffon and
strawberry phosphates--cocaine addiction not being the first subject
one associates with the irreproachable Miss Dunne..
Irene Dunne deserved better than this...
ANN VICKERS is a bizarre tear-jerker from the early days of sound
movies featuring IRENE DUNNE as a woman who is well-intentioned but
makes all the wrong choices in life, including the men she thinks she
BRUCE CABOT is her first mistake, a man proclaiming great love for her
but abandoning her not long after she bears his child. In a weak
supporting role, she treats CONRAD NAGEL as a man she cannot love but
values as a friend. He's not too happy about that arrangement.
Then comes married man WALTER HUSTON, unhappily married who finds Dunne
a refreshing bit of love interest. She has a career that keeps her busy
and stands by him when he is accused of mismanaging funds. He's soon
imprisoned but she finds a way to get his case some political attention
and eventually he is free to marry her.
That's about it, all handled in dreary fashion with hardly a note of
music on the soundtrack to lift it out of the doldrums when it gets too
soggy to bear. As social commentary on conditions in the 1930s and
women's issues, it's a failure. Miss Dunne plays a social worker who
rises to play an important role in the penal system for females.
IRENE DUNNE suffers nobly, but it's a weak vehicle for a strong actress
and she can do nothing to give the film a sense of real life struggles.
Chalk this one up as a failure, even if it was based on a novel penned
by no less than Sinclair Lewis. Evidently, not too much has been
retained from his novel.
Summing up: Not worth your time. Any film that wastes the talents of
EDNA MAY OLIVER as a Duchess has got to make you wonder what they were
thinking. It's her dullest role ever..