S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r
The Movie: 8
The movie dates from 1948, when families of veterans of the second world war were going to college to make careers for themselves courtesy of the government’s G.I. Bill (aka: The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944) and, along the way, do their best to continue the species.
George Seaton (who wrote the original screenplay for Miracle on 34th Street just the year before; prior to that: The Song of Bernadette and Charley’s Aunt; later on: The Country Girl and Airport; he also directed all of those, including the present film, except for Bernadette) adapted a story by Faith Baldwin (titled “An Apartment for Peggy” - so why drop the “An” for the movie?) that tackles two big issues: the plight of the returning GI and his family and suicide. The suicide thread is what starts our story out as Prof. Barnes (Edmund Gwenn) announces to his colleagues that his retirement is becoming a drag and he plans to go quietly into that long goodnight in a few weeks. He insists that he has outlived his usefulness and why should he continue to use resources that are needed elsewhere. While he argues his case as a proper professor of philosophy might, both his friends and we can see hope and perhaps even joy where Barnes sees only boredom. He is clearly not mentally ill nor especially depressed, making counter arguments a little difficult. Clearly what Prof. Barnes needs is a good kick in the ass.
Enter: Peggy (Jeanne Crain), 4 months pregnant with her first baby, her husband recently enrolled on the GI Bill at the college where Prof Barnes has been teaching. Jason (William Holden) has very little going for him in the way financial resources and so the two of them are trying desperately to find affordable housing. The relentlessly ebullient Peggy runs headlong into Barnes and one thing leads to another and resulting in Peggy and Jason moving into the attic over Prof. Barnes. While the rest may be predictable in its theme and lesson, how it arrives there is not. Seaton leads us down a couple of bi-ways that will surprise and possible shock you. While the overall tone is light and comedy rich with with and physical gags, the issues at stack are anything but. And for a 90 minute movie, most of which is filled with Peggy’s good natured chatter, Seaton insists that his audience take a hard look at the issues at stake.
Apartment for Peggy is what we would call today a “family movie” but, like his other important credits, insults no one’s intelligence (Yes, I am saying that many of today’s “family movies” dumb things down to the point where no thinking takes place, merely a blind acceptance of “Christian values.” Not so here, I assure you.
Theatrical Release: October 1st, 1948
DVD Review: Fox Archive - Region 0 - NTSC
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|Distribution||Fox Archive - Region 0 - NTSC|
Aspect ratio: 1.32:1
Disc Size: DVD-5 (burned)
Bit Rate: Moderate (ca. 4.5~5.5 Mbps)
|Audio||English (Dolby Digital 2.0)|
Oh dear, where did Fox find the source elements for this transfer - certainly not a proper print. To be fair, Fox does make it clear that there was no attempt to “re-master” this image but, without putting too fine a point on it, the picture looks more like it was struck for a VHS tape. Just look at all those horizontal lines, will you! especially evident against anything light. (Check out Gene Lockhart’s face in the screencap below.) While transfer artifacts as such are not an issue, nor lacking reasonable sharpness, neither is there any distracting debris or tears, but contrast is very poor. Expect for some well lit scenes here and there, blacks are crushed beyond redemption and high values are blown out. The image is thin, as if we’re looking at a fourth generation print from an analogue source. This is not a fun experience when viewed with any enlargement, though it is tolerable on the computer.
Audio & Music: 7/8
Nothing remarkable here. This is mono track so don’t expect anything spatial. There are no subtitles, nor did I find any need from a lack of dialogue definition. Music and effects are properly balanced. Background noise is minimal.
The movie is adorable, surprising and thoughtful by turns. One of the best scenes has Prof. Barnes teaching ancient philosophy to a roomful of housewives. Every aspiring teacher needs to see this. Gwenn is his irascible, but lovable self. Crain is so lovely it hurts, she plays the sort of character Jean Arthur used to in the 30s. Peggy is smart despite her nonstop homilies and fictionalized statistics. Holden is darn near underused, but he comes to play an important in the third act. Too bad about the video quality, but still very much worth seeing, if not buying.