June Allyson (Good News) plays Penny Adams, a disturbed young woman whose obsession with his dead father is driving family members crazy. On the advice of Penny’s psychiatrist (Lionel Barrymore, Key Largo), stepmother Lee, played by Claudette Colbert (It Happened One Night), moves the family back to their summer home, the place where Penny’s father committed suicide years before. However, old wounds are reopened and Lee finds herself unable to deal with Penny’s emotional problems.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Unusual (for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) Freudian drama that almost plays like a glossy Val Lewton (The Leopard, The Seventh Victim, etc.) horror film.
I’m assuming MGM, the place of clean-cut family fun, noticed the post-war moroseness and decided to tap into the nation’s funky mood. They, of course, couldn’t help themselves and combined noirish atmosphere with high gloss entertainment — the film looks terrific! The Secret Heart, written by Anne Morrison Chapin and Whitfield Cook, directed by veteran Robert Z. Leornard (Ziegfeld Girl and In the Good Old Summertime), is both eerie and elegant (it was nicely photographed by George J. Folsey, Meet Me in St. Louis).
This was a nice change of pace for Allyson, who is mostly remembered for playing upbeat characters. I’m not a big fan of hers, or Colbert for that matter, but she does a good job playing a neurotic teenager. It’s Colbert’s film, though. She had started her phase as classy-matured-woman and did a really good job playing the mother of adult characters in many films (e.g. Since You Went Away).
Walter Pidgeon (Mrs. Miniver and Madame Curie) plays Colbert’s love interest and his laid back approach to acting is effective here. He has nice chemistry with Colbert. The cast also includes Marshall Thompson (Fiend Without a Face), Audrey Totter (The Postman Always Rings Twice), and ex-silent star Anna Q. Nilsson (Sunset Boulevard). You can hear Hume Cronyn’s (Cocoon and Marvin’s Room) voice at the party sequence.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The Secret Heart relies a bit too heavily on dated ideas regarding the Electra Complex, but it is an interesting movie. The actors are very good and MGM’s high production values are a big plus. B&W, 97 minutes, Not Rated.