This was one of nine pairings of Garson and Pidgeon (starting with BLOSSOMS IN THE DUST in 1941 and ending with SCANDAL IN SCOURIE in 1953), and was not one of their better efforts, although the picture did solid business at the box office. Based on Louis Bromfield's best seller, it follows
Garson from 1875 through 1938, as she goes from poverty to huge wealth. As the film opens, Garson is in her eighties and facing a family crisis. Seems her son-in-law has been involved in some dubious financial dealings and unless he gets a large sum of cash he could go to jail. Since the needed
money would have to come from funds earmarked for her heirs, she calls her family together to discuss the matter. That leads to a flashback to more than 50 years earlier when the youthful Garson was trying to make a go of it as a maid in a Nevada boarding house. She meets wealthy mine owner
Pidgeon and the two are attracted to each other, marrying after Pidgeon's mother dies in a mine cave-in. (Why the old lady was down there is a perplexing thing.) They go back to Manhattan where Pidgeon tries to make his bride society's leading lady. He hires his ex-mistress, Moorehead, to teach
Garson how to be a grand lady, then builds a huge house for her. He invites all the right people to a party at the house, but they snub him. Infuriated, he becomes obsessed with causing them financial hardship. Pidgeon's quite a philanderer, causing problems in the marriage. When their son Farlan
dies, Garson stays in New York while Pidgeon goes to Europe. She joins him when she learns he's taken Birell, a titled lady, as his London mistress. Garson uses her friendship with Kellaway (the Prince of Wales) to break up the affair. Then Pidgeon is killed in a car crash and the film returns to
the aged Garson and her brood. They inform her they don't want to bail out her son-in-law, to which she angrily responds that she'll spend all her money on him if she likes, and so ends the film.
Playing a womanizer and comething of a cad was a departure for the gentlemanly Pidgeon, and he handled the role fairly well. Moorehead also stretched here, playing a sexpot and though she didn't quite have the looks for it, she was such a skillful actress that she managed to be convincing.
Garson's bright red hair was covered by a black wig (a concession to the black-and-white film), and it made her look odd. All in all, an attempt at grandeur that is as empty as a football stadium in April. In the version released in England, Hugo Haas played a king (replacing Kellaway as the
Prince of Wales) and Birell's role was changed to a countess. This was done to avoid any problems that may have been been caused by the portrayal of British royal family. The film received one Oscar nomination, Garson for Best Actress, but the statuette went to Ingrid Bergman for GASLIGHT.
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