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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Vets Go Collegiate On G.I. Bill

Apartment For Peggy (1948) A Postwar Time Capsule

Fascinating as a social document, but also as vehicle for sudden-star Edmund Gwenn, who'd lately scored as Santa, and so hauls bulk of Peggy narrative. She's Jeanne Crain and point of sale for the pic despite Gwenn in center spot. Crain had become unexpected Queen Of The Lot, to even Zanuck's astonishment; he'd not built before an ingĂ©nue who'd rise so high as this. There were limits to her as an actress, as Joe Mankiewicz loudly said when Crain was forced on his Letter To Three Wives and People Will Talk. The Peggy part was tough to make likeable, she being a chatterbox and frank manipulator. A drag to glamour was the character being pregnant for a first two-thirds, but that might actually have helped, being as how many of Peggy's female audience was similarly so during a postwar baby boom.

The film takes seriously issues of young couples' housing, practical aspect of education vs. jobs that pay right now (should ex-G.I. Bill Holden attend college or sell used cars?). There is also consideration of husbands "outgrowing" wives now that college beckons, a touchy topic mirroring real-life patron concern. There is generation gap acknowledged between Gwenn/teaching colleagues and back-from-combat youth to whom they owe America's freedom, a debt of gratitude that kept a lid on serious conflict before mid-50's focus on juve delinquency and breakdown of old/younger ties. College exteriors were shot in snow, a happy aspect of locationing at the University Of Nevada in Reno. Writer/director George Seaton had teamed with William Perlberg toward assembly of thoughtful pics that were also reliable boxoffice, the team second only to Mankiewicz for blending prestige and popular.


Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon has appreciative words about "Apartment For Peggy" (Part One):

Hi John,

And, happy holidays! Delighted to see your new piece on "Apartment for Peggy", and all the pertinent observations, not to mention the basic sense of appreciation. Only 'Greenbriar' at this point in time would give some attention to a fine and otherwise largely forgotten film from the great Twentieth Century-Fox, at mid-century. The movie can be discussed on its own contemporary merits, which in general film fans today either have a capacity for enjoying or not. I'd say that for fans of Greenbriar, the former is a prerequisite! But, it also does touch upon issues which in turn touched the lives of many of us indirectly, as this was about when many of our parents were young adults and being affected by similar circumstances and challenges. In fact, the movie came out in 1948, as you note, and my own parents got married the next year. My dad had a job at a service station and was pressured by his mother and aunt to look into getting work at the phone company. Passively, you might say, he followed through on this suggestion and got a job as a lineman (going up those old telephone poles to work on 'the lines'), and in time graduated to a desk job, then sales, and before he knew it, retired after 30 years with 'Ma Bell'! But he always leaned heavily on me and my brother to "go to college"! Ironically enough, having been a G.I. himself (in WW2) and probably having blown the opportunity to have gone, himself. By the late '60s, he was seeing "college educated" kids, the bane of his particular wave, being giving rapid advancement in the company, and barring other good reasons why (!), he jumped to the conclusion---as many fathers did---that "the diploma" was the "Open sesame!" perquisite. I was at some pains to explain to him that I had my eye and heart set on going into the movies, behind the scenes, which to him sounded like going snark hunting, I think. I managed to stand up to him to the extend of explaining that in that particular business, nobody asks to see your diploma (still largely true.) Nor were there then any schools for what it was I wanted to do---which doubtless rattled him even further. Only when I got rolling and was obviously getting along did he ever relent. Funny that on one movie job I struck up a conversation with a great guy who was doing extra work, and it transpired that he did it for "fun", as he was a semi-retired businessman who was worth a small mint. He advised me and my coworker on good investments, and explained he'd eventually gone into internet-connected field, via companies which had pioneered in the area of servers. And to the point, he said that he'd been offered a college education on the G.I. Bill, and at the urging of his parents, took the option of getting the college education over the alternative, which frankly I can't remember what it was! Possibly a cash amount. He told both of us that that education had meant everything to his subsequent career and success.

11:59 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Part Two from Craig Reardon (Part Two):

I'm very fond of the movies of George Seaton and William Perlberg, myself. They're unique, and diverse in content. The earliest one I saw in a theater was "The Pleasure of His Company" in 1961, an enjoyable comedy (set at Christmas, by the way! Not quite as 'on the nose' as their first great success, "Miracle on 34th Street".) I enjoy "Teacher's Pet", and particularly the humane and gruelingly-suspenseful "Counterfeit Traitor", also starring "...Peggy"'s William Holden.

As for Jeanne Crain, I think she's a bit weak in the two movies you cite, but I like her in "Leave Her to Heaven". And by the time she appears in "Man Without a Star", a Kirk Douglas Western made at U-I in the mid-'50s, she's just as beautiful and a good deal more assured and impressive in her acting. She was from Inglewood---same as me!---but went to the 'rival' high school, Inglewood High. (I went to Morningside, over near the now-defunct Hollywood Park Racetrack, currently being massively redeveloped as a brand new football stadium and entertainment complex, the new home of the Rams.) Working in 2003 on a movie called "Hidalgo", I was putting some stunt guys through makeup to impersonate Arabs, and one nice young guy told me his mother had been in the business. (You can see where this is going.) I asked, "What did she do?", and he told me, and said she was Jeanne Crain...! He added proudly, "She's a great mom, and a tough lady." That's a nice legacy for a lovely and fragile-seeming leading lady who captivated Americans in their time of great anxiety, and the relative release of the postwar period---a loving and admiring son's proud tribute.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

I think we have talked here in the past about the curious case of Jeanne Crain, a major star who has received little respect over the years. Joe Mankiewicz slammed her. Elia Kazan (he refused to refer to her by name in his autobiography, called her I think "the professional virgin") slammed her. And, as you mention, Zanuck was a bit dumbfounded by her popularity. After she died, the Academy even ignored her in the usual in memoriam segment on Oscar night (and, remember, she had been a Best Actress nominee!) In her heyday, her range WAS pretty narrow, but for a special brand of youthful over earnestness, gently toggled from comedy to pathos as needed, she was tops. Love C.Reardon's story!

5:52 PM  
Blogger Neely OHara said...

Have been shouting this movie's praises for decades -- it was my introduction to Crain (on channel 8 out of Portland ME) at age 9 and I've been smitten ever since (and Peggy is a pretty annoying character, or could have been in the hands of a less charming performer). I've never understood her detractors, whether Mankiewicz or my mom.

You don't necessarily have to fall in love with her as I did, but what's to dislike so intensely? She was a warm, welcome presence in whatever she appeared in, and I think her work in "A Letter to Three Wives" more than holds it's own against Darnell's (who also gets slammed frequently, but who was at her absolute best in that film), Southern's, and the delicious VO presence of Celeste Holm.

12:24 PM  
Blogger tomservo56954 said...

Speaking of Crain and winter you know where Fox filmed those for the 1946 film MARGIE?


6:47 PM  

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