Run time: Approved | 84 min | Comedy, Drama
Director: S. Sylvan Simon
Writers: Mary Roberts Rinehart, Annalee Whitmore
Stars: Marjorie Main, Zasu Pitts, Aline MacMahon
Taglines: Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Character! Comedy
Surprise Hit Of The Year!
Raw-boned, raspy voiced, sixty-something, Letitia “Tish” Carberry (Main) comes back to her home town with a baby in her arms. “I’m a woman. It’s a baby. It’s mine.” she declares. Three splendid character actresses play three delightful spinsters in Tish.
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Letitia TISH’ Carberry enjoys nothing more than controlling the lives & romances of all around her, aided and abetted by her two dearest friends – Lizzie Wilkins and Aggie Pilkington.
The popular characters from the stories by Mary Roberts Rinehart come alive in this funny, nostalgic (and nearly forgotten) film. Helping immeasurably in the movie’s success is the casting of a trio of Hollywood’s finest comedic character actresses. Bossy & down-to-earth, Marjorie Main tackles the title role and wrestles it into submission, her ever-present Swear Box ready to accept the coins she must deposit whenever she unlooses one of her colorful, G-rated oaths. As sensible Lizzie, Aline MacMahon brings a patrician respectability to her part, although that doesn’t keep her from sitting on a rowboat’s leak at a crucial moment. ZaSu Pitts becomes vague, fluttery Aggie, who still writes a hilarious memorial poem on the anniversary of her sweetheart’s death.
Guy Kibbee is very droll as the judge whose life is made a misery by the feminine triumvirate. Among the young persons in whose lives they interfere are pretty Susan Peters & Virginia Grey. Movie mavens will recognize an uncredited Nora Cecil as one of the old ladies at the boarding house.
The film benefits from MGM’s typically fine production values. The story becomes unexpectedly serious near the end, but by the closing moments hilarity reigns again as Tish once more starts to meddle.
Okay, it’s a little silly. But where else do you get to see three of the finest character actresses in one picture? Main, Pitts, and McMahon are all delightful if ill-served by the very uneven script. In addition, there is the adorable Susan Peters, who at 21 displays a mature talent. And of course, the always funny Guy Kibbee adds his particular brand of stodginess to the mix. It was just a bit after the Pearl Harbor attack, so a bit of overly patriotic war-cheerleading is understandable and excusable. What is not excusable is the maudlin twist in the otherwise comic (and often slapstick) hijinks. Still, all in all a picture worth watching if you like great character actors or gorgeous gals like Miss Peters and Miss Gray.
Catch this oddity the next time TCM drags it out of the pit. This vehicle for the grand old warhorse Marjorie Main features some of the Golden Age’s greatest character actors and the talented and beautiful (if ultimately tragic) Susan Peters. But the sub-sitcom setups, rotten writing, inferior direction and editing, and at least one perverse (if not sickening) plot turn make this an unintentionally creepy little "B" picture indeed.
"Tish" was no doubt a tryout for the dazzling Peters (who the same year would appear to far greater effect in "Random Harvest"), but given how short her film resume is, it’s a shame that this thing has to feature so prominently on it.
If you need proof that MGM didn’t turn out "Mutiny on the Bounty" and "Mrs. Miniver" twice a week, seek no more.
Marjorie Main gives a truly wonderful performance as a feisty church lady who is constantly filling her swear box with change by using malapropisms to cover the swear words she is thinking inside. She has set out to pair her beloved nephew whom she raised with the daughter of a deceased friend. But when plans start to fail, he ends up with the rather uppity daughter of her nemesis Guy Kibbee, and she finds herself in a predicament when she discovers that the young girl has left town and died after giving birth to a baby she assumes is illegitimate. She takes in the child whom she claims she has adopted but this leads to her being committed to an institution while the nephew and his wife take in the child.
This is a rather convoluted plot line, especially for what is essentially a comedy, but it works mainly because of the chemistry between Main and her two "Steel Magnolia" like pals Aline MacMahon and Zasu Pitts. Even her supposed rival Kibbee has an unexpressed admiration for Main, which she feels for him as well but is too set in her ways to admit it. There is a very funny opening sequence where Main attempts rollerskating on her way to church but ends up on her derrière, as well as a lengthy scene on a camping trip with her nephew, the young girl she wants him with, and her two pals. Susan Peters is the young Innocent girl, while Lee Bowman and Virginia Grey are the couple who end up together. The real highlight of this film is not the young couple, but Main (in a role patterned after many Marie Dressler parts), Pitts and MacMahon.