Cinema Slueth: My Reputation

For review of all movies starring Barbara Stanwyck, go here.

Stars: 5 / 5
Recommendation: An emotionally intense film with gorgeous locations and outfits, all the while showcasing the hardships of a widowed single mother. Certainly the movie hits upon several controversial topics of the time.

Prologue: This series follows movies of Barbara Stanwyck. I have gained a certain fascination for her as she reminds me so much of one my favorite yester year Hindi Indian language actress Nutan. Here is my review of her next film.

My Reputation is a 1946 American Romantic Drama film Directed by Curtis Bernhardt, Produced by Henry Blanke with Executive Production by Jack L. Warner; and released by Warner Brothers. The film stars Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Warner Anderson, Eve Arden and Lucille Watson in the lead cast.

It is the story of an upper-class widow Jessica “Jess” Drummond (portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck) whose romance with Major Scott Landis (portrayed by George Brent) becomes the cause of rumor among her gossiping friends; trouble with her mother Mrs. Mary Kimball (portrayed by Lucille Watson); and with her kids.

The story is adapted by Catherine Turney from the 1942 novel Instruct My Sorrows by Clare Jaynes. The release was delayed by 2 yrs even though it was finished filming in 1944 right after Stanwyck’s blockbuster 1944 American crime film noir Double Indemnity. This was due to the world war that was going on. It was screened to Armed Forces before getting a general release in theaters.

The gorgeous costumes worn by Stanwyck were all done by Edith Head who was borrowed from Paramount Films at the time of the filming. Check them out, even her skiing outfit was much more fashionable. And she has a coat for every outfit. OMG!

The opening titles are on a book with a heart shaped key. Stanwyck gets top billing. The movie opens with Shakespeare’s quote from Othello Act 3 Scene 3 spoken by Iago.

This was George Brent’s final film with Warner Brothers. This is the last of the five films that he worked with Stanwyck. The other four being – the 1932 pre-Code American drama film So Big; the 1932 pre-Code American romantic drama film The Purchase Price; the 1933 American pre-Code drama film Baby Face and the 1942 American drama film The Gay Sisters.

Stanwyck’s Jessica is a much more forward woman than her mother expects her to be. How Jess’s mother Mrs. Mary Kimball tried to emotionally blackmail her, but Jess remains staunch and straight with her principles. She has a moral line which is perfectly acceptable by society only if the line follows their line. And Jess defies it but doesn’t mean that she goes completely off the rails either. She just want to do things her way without anyone meddling in her personal life, including her mother.

Eve Arden’s Ginna Abbott gave the much needed comic relief albeit it was few and far apart. She became a moral support to Stanwyck’s Jess while she gathered her pieces of life together.

The film showcases the hurdles that a single woman who is a widow faces from all walks of people – emotionally blackmailing parents; gossiping friends; men who want to get into their pants but pretend to be friends; and dealing with growing kids.

An emotionally intense film with gorgeous locations and outfits, all the while showcasing the hardships of a widowed single mother. Certainly the movie hits upon several controversial topics of the time.

Spoiler Alerts:

Movie Trivia:

  1. Interesting to note that John Ridgley’s name in the movie is Cary Abbott and his Lake Tahoe cabin is called Grant cabin. Perhaps a byplay on Cary Grant’s name. 😛
  2. Lux Radio Theater broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on April 21, 1947 with Barbara Stanwyck and George Brent reprising their film roles.
  3. Screen Guild Playhouse also did a radio adaptation on July 7, 1947.
  4. The 1955 American romantic drama All That Heaven Allows has a similar concept.
  5. The poem Paul quotes in his letter to Jessica is by the English poet Christina Georgina Rossetti. It is the last two lines from her poem “Remember.”

Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

  1. When Jess is behind Major Landis on the skis, her poles appear and disappear between scenes.
  2. When Mrs. Kimball confronts Jess about being seen at Scott’s apartment, they have tea. Jess nervously paces the room, and then sits. When her mother comments that Jess is no longer wearing black for mourning, Jess is seated in a reclining position. In the immediate closeup shot she is sitting upright.
  3. On first visit to the Major’s apartment, the door opens on the left hand side, when leaving the apartment the second time the door opens on the right hand side.
  4. In the shot from behind Jessica at the train station, she raises her hand from her cheek and salutes a group of sailors leaning out the train’s window. But then in the close-up from in front of her, she again raises her hand from her cheek and salutes them.

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