Saw this little gem for the first time yesterday and really enjoyed it. I’d never heard of it before, and I think it’s one that deserves to be better known. Beginning in London, during the Second World War, the film takes us back in time to the Edwardian era as we follow the experiences of one family.
David Niven plays both the older and younger Rollo, embittered by the tragic end to his romance with his fathers ward, Lark (Teresa Wright). Rollo’s cold hearted, elder sister Selina(Jayne Meadows)is nasty to Lark and puts in place several obstacles to prevent the burgeoning love between her brother and Lark. I have rarely felt such hate towards a film character as I have towards Selina; interfering, controlling and cold, she wants to be the centre of attention at all times and can’t bear it when others are happy. At the same time I was fascinated by why she was that way; at the beginning we learn her mother died when she and her two brothers were young, and she became the mistress of the house(essentially she had to grow up before her time), I also think she resented Lark being brought into her family. As sad as Selina’s childhood may have been it doesn’t excuse such behaviour when she grows up.
Niven is excellent here, hugely likeable(when wasn’t he?)as the dashing, younger Rollo and almost unrecognisable as the older man. Wright is enchanting as the gentle Lark, struggling with her feelings and enduring unpleasantness from Selina for years.Evelyn Keyes and Farley Granger play war time sweethearts with a connection to Rollo’s family.
I really liked that the family home serves as the films narrator, there is that old saying “if only walls could talk”, in this film we get to hear what they would say if they could. The opening really made me think about houses and what goes on inside those four walls, and how connected we are to the home we grew up in.
This is very sad in places, if ever a couple deserved a happy ending it was Rollo and Lark, sadly that just wasn’t to be so.Good performances, beautiful costumes(Wright in particular gets some stunning gowns)and period detail. Highly recommended.