December 6, 2014

Greer Garson, Blossoms in the Dust

as EDNA GLADNEY
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Let's just get this out of the way: I found Blossoms in the Dust to be a huge load of piping hot crap. It is a picture that seeks to tell a tale of human valiance and compassion (as clearly shown by the opening intertitle in which we're told we are about to watch "the story of a great woman, and of the great work she is doing for humanity") and yet behind the thick veil of self-importance you'll find a film that's just a hasty reimagining of a rather ordinary story. At the center is Greer Garson, who, in spite of her endless well of graceful charm, can only go so far against a sea of sentimental contrivances and a poorly written script.

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 photo ScreenShot2014-11-30at120018AM.jpgPutting my general distaste for children aside, I think it's safe to say that the story of a woman who fights for the rights of orphans is pretty unexciting. And apparently those in charge of Blossoms in the Dust thought so as well, given that they felt the need to stuff the narrative with as much contrived (and false) drama as possible. I admit that Garson does regal grace and hoity-toity sophisticate just perfectly (though that almost doesn't seem to matter given that I couldn't even find proof that Edna Gladney came from wealth). She's provided with unfortunate event after unfortunate event to which we are supposed to FEEL! for her, and when she's not being distressed over her fictional illegitimate foster sister's suicide (in real life Gladney was an illegitimate child herself, though the film wants us to believe she was legitimate even though she's here to break that taboo), distressed over her fictional son's death (in real life Gladney had had a near-deadly tubal pregnancy but had never actually given birth to anyone, much less a child who'd then go on to die), distressed over her husband's death (in real life Gladney's husband passed when she was 50), or distressed over someone wanting to adopt her favorite orphan, she's reciting speeches of motivational fluff about the rights of children. I say "recite" because at times it literally sounds as though she's standing there and reading off these horridly written lines from memory....I never felt as though Garson actually felt or believed all these things she was saying. In fact, I thought the performance as a whole was inconsistent--she'll look incredulous while blabbering out some dramatic monologue at one point, she'll provide some laughably bad acting at another point (her reaction to the death of her fake son comes to mind), and then she ends the film with some a rather lengthy scene with immaculate subtle acting. I'll say that Garson does pain very well, even if the acting is often supplemented with stupid dialogue ("humiliated...cheated...useless!"), and she has that delicate poise about her that keeps things at least bearable, but ultimately I was left feeling cold by it all.




7 comments:

  1. To Joan Crawford's chagrin, Greer Garson became Louis B. Mayer's 'new' Norma Shearer, and to her frustration the dramatic opportunities Crawford thought would now be hers by right (as both Garbo and Shearer neared the exit), she saw going to this newcomer (and soon enough too, Katharine Hepburn). Crawford gave up in 1943, for new pastures at Warner Brothers.

    I haven't seen Blossoms in years, though I like Garson a good deal. Miniver, Random Harvest and Valley Of Decision I'm much more (fondly) familiar with. It's a shame one of those wasn't Garson's technicolor debut. MGM also shaved 7 years off Greer's birthdate in its publicity buildup, but she was actually born in 1904, just two years Shearer's junior.

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    1. I can't say that I'm looking forward to the rest of Garson's nominated performances. I fear that after Mrs. Miniver, my patience is going to be running a little short..

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  2. I wonder what you'll think about her in Mrs. Parkington and Madame Curie...

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    1. lol. I wonder that myself. I want to say I'll probably hate them, but who knows!

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  3. I think this one was the best of her nominated performances (haven't seen Campobello, but did the other ones), so if you awarded this just 3, it's safe to say you won't find much excitement in the others.

    I liked it more, I thought that when it was good, it was really good. Heartfelt. Reassuring.

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    1. That's very true. When she's good (the whole thing with the boy being adopted at the end) it's really good, but for me her strong positives weren't enough to elevate what I felt was a generally standard performance. And some of her line deliveries were just awful in my opinion (though the lines themselves were often written pretty horribly!)

      I'll say that I'm somewhat interested in Mrs. Miniver, and not at all interested in the rest of her nominations :D

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    2. well, I don't remember anything "awful" :)

      Some say she was better in Mrs Miniver, but she's at most on the same level at this imo (though I like that film).

      the other 3 1940s nomination will be pure punishment for you, especially Parkington. :)

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