I’m not sure how long ago but I recall an acquaintance once asking me if I knew of a film where a disfigured couple live in a magical cottage where their visual flaws disappear and they remain beautiful to each other. I didn’t but at the time did some research to come up with the title and at long last took the time to watch this “enchanting” movie from RKO.
Scoring a screenplay credit is Herman Mankiewicz under John Cromwell’s direction in this odd tale mixing what appears to be witchcraft and a young couple suffering the misfortunes that life has dealt them played by Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire. The opening scene of the film gives us Herbert Marshall as a blind pianist using a melody as a backdrop to begin his narrative of the story at a high society social gathering.
“She’s terrible homely.” says Marshall’s nephew in describing McGuire. Dorothy is destined to be a spinster. She’s shy, lonely and yes, made up to look rather plain. With very little confidence in social circles, she takes on a job at the cottage owned by Mildred Natwick. It’s historically a cottage that has been rented to honeymooning couples throughout it’s long history. Time seems to have stood still inside the cottage since Natwick’s husband passed away years previously. She too has resigned herself to a life of loneliness and staying single.
Into the story comes Robert Young and his soon to be wife, Hillary Brooke. They are to be wed and rent the cottage as young lovers do. Pearl Harbor intercedes leaving Young severely scarred and losing the use of one arm. With little to live for and spurning his doting parents and losing the strength of Brooke, he returns to the cottage to hide from life only to find solace with the blind Marshall as the country neighbor who makes no visual judgements and love from the lonely, yet kind and understanding McGuire.
The magic will soon begin to take effect and the enchanted cottage will allow the young couple to see each other for what they really are in the others eyes. As is my custom, I won’t go any further in the story telling as to let you discover for yourself the magic and reasoning for the visual flaws of each character to fade away.
I must confess to both liking this film though wishing for a little more. By that I mean I had fully expected a far more emotional connection to the film and had assumed I’d be reaching for the tissue as the final reel played itself out. This was not to be and I think a good deal of that had to do with the fact that there were to many stereotypes involved. Specifically, the actors portraying Young’s parents. A bit to hammy for a viewer in the year 2016. Deep down I want to like it more than I actually did. A good film but not the gem I had hoped for but I do appreciate the message the film delivers of one’s looks and making judgements based solely on what we see.
Robert Young does well here as both the dashing young man full of life and headed to war and glory only to be left marred and dead inside before discovering other facets of life and love. McGuire is made up to look dark and homely and reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry had a great looking girlfriend if the lighting was right. If not she was hideous and could jar one from their seat. It’s Herbert Marshall that I continue to appreciate the more I discover his films. He has such a smooth delivery that if he were alive today, he’d have a very much in demand voice for narrating both documentaries and as a pitch man for products in television ads.
Always on the lookout during the credit sequence, I spotted the name Robert Clarke in the list of actors. Ring a bell? Think low budget fodder and you might come up with The Hideous Sun Demon or The Man From Planet X.
The Enchanted Cottage frequently turns up on TCM or you can snag a copy as I did thanks to the Warner Archive Collections made on demand wing.
I last saw this way back in the early 1990s and really liked it…I wonder what I would think about it today. I do remember liking the story’s message, which I think remains a valid one. After having watched it recently, do you think it would be good material for a remake?
In researching the flick, I read how McGuire and Young were going to take the parts of Natwick and Marshall in a remake but McGuire thought the story a thing of the past. Still, might make for a good show today in the right hands.