May 25, 2005
The Enchanted Cottage (1945)
Grade: 77/100

Director: John Cromwell
Stars: Dorothy McGuire, Robert Young, Herbert Marshall

What it's about. Disfigured pilot Oliver (Robert Young) and homely Laura (Dorothy McGuire) believe their appearance has been vastly improved because of the run down cottage they live in. Or are they simply blinded by love? Herbert Marshall is simply blind, but seems content as he is. Shouldn't Laura and Oliver feel the same way?

How others will see it. With its perpetually cascading romantic score, it seems invitable that our heroine Dorothy McGuire will find true love at the Enchanted Cottage. The film is targeted to a female audience, and its message is unmistakable. Inner beauty is what matters.

And isn't this really the truth? Sure, men may ogle the young pop culture goddess of the moment, be it Brittany Spears, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, whatever. But, think of the people you work with. Whom do you respect or admire? Surely it's not the breezy and self-satisfied summer intern, pretty as she may be (and knows it). No, you admire people for what they are, which is usually unrelated to what they look like.

Enter Freddy and Oliver's mother. They are rather stupid and shallow. They even look it, while Laura and Oliver are beautiful on the inside, and thus on the outside, to each other and the movie camera.

How I felt about it. But some will definitely find it tedious. An old copy of Leonard Maltin's movie book gives it a humble two and a half stars. An internet movie website I frequent gives it a full four stars. What can cause such a discrepancy?

It would be shallow to accuse those who disdain The Enchanted Cottage of being shallow. They simply may not like it. It's slow, it has no action, and no real drama, aside from conversations of the heart and an unfortunate (and off-camera) war injury.

Of course, it has romance in spades. Romance to the exclusion of everything else. As such, it is an ultimate test for a film critic. Does one appreciate it for what it is, or how one would wish it to be? Angry words, a wacky neighbor, and a comic subplot (or at least a cute puppy dog) would help.

Or would such side dishes simply spoil the enchantment? I expect the latter. Even if it went well, and it sometimes can, it would be a different film in spirit. Not a good thing, since somewhere is a place in my heart for this tear jerker with a (reasonably) happy ending.