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Monday, 3 September 2012

Classic Film Review: Blossoms in the Dust (1941)

Based on a true story, Blossoms in the Dust tells of Edna Gladney (Greer Garson) who targeted the stain of illegitimacy that blighted the lives of children in Texas in the early 1900s and found families for homeless children. Being Hollywood, much of her story is fictionalised, although the spirit of celebration is well deserved. The story begins with a celebration of Edna's engagement to a rather boring man, although she has just been proposition by another man in a rather arrogant fashion. That man is Sam Gladney (Walter Pidgeon), a wheat farmer who's based in Texas. Finally, they marry and go through several hardships. After Sam dies Edna continues the work that she's started with homeless children and is convinced to campaign for the stain of illegitimacy to be removed from birth certificates in the state of Texas.

Admittedly, the film struggles with great jumps in time. We first meet Edna then we fast-forward, via the medium of letters, to her marriage then, by way of anniversary cards, through the various stages of her marriage. It can feel a little episodic but Garson delivers a warmth to the character which sustains the film throughout the jumps. One difficulty I had was an ability to spot what was about to happen in terms of 'plot twists'. It was no surprise for me to learn that the two events I'd predicted accurately - the deaths of Edna's adopted sister and her son - were fictional Hollywood creations and not part of the real Edna's life. In all honesty, while the additions gave 'cause' to Edna's journey, her opinions and actions were remarkable enough not to need fluffing up in this way.

Garson and Pidgeon work well together as the two leads, though an integral part of this film is her friendship with Dr Max Breslar, played wonderfully by Felix Bressart. He spends as much time in the film as Pidgeon and is perfect as the loyal friend willing to help Edna's endeavours any way he can. I'd almost go as far as saying he outshines Garson herself, though that's practically impossible. The final scene of this - I won't spoil it - had me in floods of tears and is part of the reason I recommend this film so much. Although it is a little sentimental at times (and extremely Hollywoodised) it's a heart-warming story of one woman's determination to do the right thing. It's inspired me to learn about the true Edna Gladney and that can only be a good thing.

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