My Foolish Heart (1949)

My Foolish Heart (1949)

Toronto Film Society presented My Foolish Heart (1949) on Monday, February 21, 1977 in a double bill with Deadline at Dawn and the write up Susan Hayward – The Brooklyn Bernhardt as part of the Season 29 Monday Evening Film Buff Series, Programme 7.

Production Company: Samuel Goldwyn Productions (RKO release).  Producer: Samuel Goldwyn.  Director: Mark Robson.  Screenplay: Julius and Philip Epstein; from the short story “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” by J.D. Salinger.  Musical Score: Victor Young.  Title Song: Victor Young and Ned Washington.  Photography: Lee Garmes.  Editor: Daniel Mandell  Art Direction: Richard Day.

Cast:  Dana Andrews (Walt Dreiser), Susan Hayward (Eloise Winters), Kent Smith (Lew Wengler), Lois Wheeler (Mary Jane), Jessie Royce Landis (Martha Winters), Robert Keith (Henry Winters) Gigi Perreau (Ramona), Karin Booth (Miriam), Philip Pine (Sgt. Lucey), Edna Holland (Dean Whiting), Jerry Paris (Usher), Regina Wallace (Mrs. Crandall), Martha Mears (Night Club Singer).

My Foolish Heart (1949)

The films chosen for this Susan Hayward programme have been governed, as usual, by availability.  It is a shame, certainly, that we won’t see the lady in Technicolor but in most other respects the “double feature” is, we think, nicely representative and, at least, unhackneyed.  Deadline at Dawn presents her at a fairly early point in her career but just far enough along that the early “starlet” parts were beginning to give way to bigger and better roles.  My Foolish Heart (50), With a Song in my Heart (52), I’ll Cry Tomorrow (55), and–her eventual winner–I Want To Live (58).  At the ceremonies in the spring of 1959, host Jerry Lewis remarked that the applause for her was no ordinary applause and invited “Susie”–who had positively run up to the stage, her characteristic poised walking swagger quite discarded–to take an extra bow.  Which, of course, she did.

In his generally thorough and perceptive paperback on the star (“Susan Hayward, The Divine Bitch”–the latter an extreme but probably kindly meant sub-title), Doug McClelland devotes a whole chapter to My Foolish Heart.  The following short extracts convey his enthusiasm and the rich flavour of the film:

My Foolish Heart originated in the wry humour of the Salinger “New Yorker” short story, read to this day in the perennially-selling collection entitled “Nine Stories”.  Its much-expanded screenplay by the Epstein twins…offered Hayward the moving, gamut-running role of the sweet college girl whose World War II lover (Dana Andrews) died in an airfield explosion, leaving her pregnant.  Disillusioned, she tricked an officer friend (Kent Smith) into marriage and found herself drinking, raising a neurotic child (Gigi Perreau) and turning bitchy….

My Foolish Heart (1949)

There was a terrific, ingratiating performance itself of award quality by pouch-eyed Robert Keith (father of Brian) as the girl’s understanding hardware salesman father, while Jessie Royce Landis regally got around the sillier aspects of Hayward’s hysterical mother….  But it was still Hayward’s day.  The part must have looked so good to her that she didn’t veto second billing behind the definitely secondary Andrews (who was, however, a Goldwyn contract star).

The trade paper ‘Variety’ chorused: ‘Her performance is a gem, displaying a positive talent for capturing reality.’  This was especially true in the jaded, juiced, Salingerish early scenes, before her Eloise was seen as a starry-eyed, peter pan student who looked more like Kitty Foyle (Hayward was, after all, now thirty one).”

Susan, incidentally, was never more effective than when drunk.  The role in Smash-Up had first brought her real attention as, possibly, the equal of Bette Davis in dramatic punch (pun intended).  Many will also recall her as a soused Lillian Roth in I’ll Cry Tomorrow, clinging to the stage curtain for support before an entrance and raucously announcing: “Heeere we go-oh”.

Notes written and compiled by Clive Denton

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