August 12, 2017

Jane Wyman • The Blue Veil

as Louise "LouLou" Mason
Won: Golden Globe Award - Best Actress in a Drama

Having first watched The Blue Veil years ago, I thought it was necessary to give the picture a revisit, just in case a few years of maturity might have softened some of my initial pointed views. Sitting through it all again, I suppose The Blue Veil as a whole does come off as more bearable. However, my overall sentiment towards Jane Wyman's work and the limitations of her role remains unchanged.

Forbes
 notes that The Blue Veil was one of Wyman's favorite films - one that hit close to home given that she too had lost a child just a few years prior. Given the deeply personal nature of the film's subject matter, one might expect a more powerful viewing experience than what actually nets out in the film. The truth is, The Blue Veil reverts back to the saccharine storytelling that was popular in the 1940s: that is to say, we're given a glimpse of a heavy subject (woman loses her child), which is thus not explored deeply but more so meant as a catalyst to a more generic thesis ("who raises a child of his own flesh lives with nature; who raises a child of another's lives with God," or, look at this admirable woman who loves children!)

No, this is not a tale of a woman coming to terms with the death of her infant - this is a watered down celebration of woman who takes care of a lot of different children over the course of her life. (see also: Greer Garson in 1941) It's a potentially daring topic used as a segue into a more ho-hum, already-done topic, and I'd say this reflects my general feelings towards Wyman's performance - has promise, but is mostly boring.


We do not really know LouLou. We aren't given much of an idea of who she was before the birth of her now dead child. We are not given much of an idea of who she is as the movie unravels. All we know, and all we are witness to, is that of a reserved, maternal woman who sure does love kids and babies. Given this, Wyman is quite robotic for much of the film. She is soft spoken and sweet, but that's all been done to death by now. There's tinges of hurt with every departure from one child/family to the next, but nothing is executed by Wyman in a challenging manner. A promising subplot in the form of LouLou's affair with Jerry Kean is presented merely as a rough sketch and then quickly abandoned, never to be addressed again. Wyman's detriment is that LouLou is written and played out at surface level.

That's not to say that the performance is all for naught. Wyman comes out with guns ablazing in the film's final act - packing a strong punch as she defends her parental rights over Tony. Even her final scene, wherein she's reunited with all of her "children," is nicely executed. These moments show a spark of life out of Wyman, and one can briefly imagine her tapping into some of that real life pain she harbored. She's more vivid and heartfelt than I initially recalled her to be years ago - but alas, it's not enough to balance out a mostly unimaginative performance.


2 comments:

  1. This is a very familiar performance in that I've seen Wyman do all of this before in other films. She's a 'low-wattage' actress in my opinion: always sincere and professional but somehow lacking in the energy to fully commit to her roles. It's a problem that mars much of her work and makes her interpretations seems lackluster and, at times, quite superficial.

    Here, I wanted more out of her LouLou than she is able to give, especially given the circumstances LouLou finds herself in. Ultimately, this is 'Oscar-bait' 101, presenting all the marks of the recipe to make the souffle while in reality giving us nothing more than an egg sandwich.

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