PEOPLE WILL TALK (1951)
Parallel to this subject (rather than used as a subplot) is an investigation launched by mean-spirited, jealous colleague Hume Cronyn into the mysterious past of Grant and his strange companion Finlay Currie.
The film's pregnancy theme may be very dated these days, but it was quite progressive in its time. The University's investigation is a reflection of McCarthy-type witch-hunts. The title refers to gossip, intolerance and slander, but in addition everyone talks and talks and talks. Some of this talk is literate, some is Hollywood- heatrical.
The movie has a great deal of charm and color, makes good use of music, is pleasant to watch. It is also full of improbabilities and loose ends, along with a strong dose of corn. Implausibilities include Crain's instant love of Grant; Crain's suicide attempt, as neither her having a gun nor using it right outside Grant's office make sense; the odd story of Grant's past...
The entire tete-a-tete part where Grant proposes to Crain is ho-hum, if not ho-ho-ho-hum-hum-hum; the sequence of playing with toy trains is exaggerated in its effort to be humorous. In general, whimsy in this movie is on the heavy side. There are other flaws.
The characters don't really satisfy, even though most are played by consumate character actors. Many of the thespians are overdrawn and overdone. Attractive Jeanne Crain is, as usual (with exceptions, notably in "Pinky") too cold an actress; Sidney Blackmer, as Crain's father, is too smug in his admission he has been a failure in life; Cronyn is much too evil. Even Grant is too idealized, too smart, self -possessed, angelic and multi-talented.
On the other hand, bass-playing physicist Walter Slezak is charming and convincing as Grant's friend, and Finlay Currie is memorable. Currie, an accomplished Scots musician who only entered movies in his early 40s, had made a strong impression as the convict in the 1946 "Great Expectations." His role here is unusual by any standards. Shunderson is an older, big, silent man, possessed of what looks like Scottish dourness (but isn't), and with unclear functions. Clearly, though, he's a man with a secret. He gives the impression of having some sort of mental weakness. Attached to Grant with total devotion, he is like a loving dog. The Shunderson-Praetorius rapport is interesting and touching enough to justify the whole film.
I must admit that the movie's weaknesses may become apparent only after repeated viewings. Seen once (perhaps even a second time), PEOPLE papers over the holes, thanks to brio, warmth and originality. And, even for those whose logic does not allow them to suspend disbelief, this movie still ranks as good, enjoyable and recommended. After all, it is a J.L.Mankiewicz product. (Edwin Jahiel)