Movies for Grown-Ups, Part 2: Dodsworth and the Shame of Age
“It might have to do with the fact that the MGM DVD is out of print or the lack of big-name stars,” mused Dan Hofstra of MovieManiacMadness. “It could just be that it stands too close to reality.”
Hofstra adds that, well, the thudding title “Dodsworth” doesn’t help, and he’s right. It’s as poetic as – to steal from W.C. Fields – “a bubble in a bathtub.”
(And the less said about the posters, the better.)
While the movie isn't at all political, it's interesting to note that two famous “recovering liberals” count the movie among their favorites: playwright David Mamet, and comedian Dennis Miller, who chose Dodsworth when he served as a TCM "Guest Programmer."
The story concerns Sam Dodsworth -- "surely the most lovable industrialist ever put on film" -- and his wife Fran, played by Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton. The couple have spent their whole lives in the same Midwestern city, building a successful business and a happy family. Now with the business sold for millions and the children married off, restless Fran (who fancies herself a sophisticate) wants to see the world. Sam is less enthusiastic, but obliges.
“So from the beginning, you're shown how this trip will play out. Fran talks a good game about wanting the refinements of Europe. ‘Oh, you're hopeless. You haven't the mistiest notion of civilization,’ she snaps at her husband. Retorts Sam, ‘Yeah, well, maybe I don't think so much of it, though. Maybe clean hospitals, concrete highways, and no soldiers along the Canadian border come near my idea of civilization.’
“Yet Dodsworth, not a man to putter around enthusing over cathedrals and graves, still will find much in his travels to fire his imagination."
Indeed, as the ship approaches the English coastline, Sam finds himself overcome with excitement, which he shares with Edith Cortwright (Mary Astor), an ex-pat divorcee he meets on deck: