I had an amazing experience while watching a film the other day. I found it exciting because it made viewing the film an engaging experience, not just a passive one. You may laugh when I tell you what has inspired these reflections, but I dare you to watch the film and not be similarly engaged. No, My Darling Daughter (1961) is the first film I have ever seen that kept me guessing as to who would “get the girl” in the end. Okay, I’m a confessed and unashamed Romantic. I offer no apologies.
If you click on the link for the title, you’ll notice I directed you to the IMDb and not the TCMDb. This is because the synopsis on TCM’s page gives the secret of the plot away. You can read it of you want, but I think it will spoil the experience for you. I refuse point blank to enable classic film cheaters. ;)
(Let me interject here that I think Tansy is a terribly unusual name. It borders on odd, actually. It’s not Pansy, like the flower or someone with no guts, it’s Tansy. What’s Tansy? If anyone out there in blogland has an answer, I’d love to hear it. The name has bugged me ever since I watched the film.)
Anyway – Sir Matthew is a rather inept father who doesn’t quite know what to do with Tansy. She gets low grades at her expensive private girl’s school and seems to have no idea what to do with herself. We meet this little family just as Tansy is leaving to go back to school and Sir Matthew is returning from a business trip. Sir Matthew has decided, without Tansy’s knowledge, that she’s not returning to the school. She’s off to be “finished” in Paris. (Those were the days – huh? :) ) Tansy doesn’t want to go, and leaves for school anyway, creating lots of glorious chaos and trouble.
In the mix here are two of the hunkiest guys I’ve ever seen, let alone in the same film: Michael Craig and James Westmoreland (billed as Rad Fulton). They make for the delicious experience of wondering who Juliet Mills will end up with in the end. You know how, in most films, either the top billed star gets the girl in the end and/or the romantic rival is a tad on the undesirable side, so there’s never any question of who gets the girl. Not so here.
Michael Craig plays Thomas Barclay, the son of Sir Matthew’s business partner General Barclay (played by Roger Livesey). He is also unsure of his purpose in life, but thinks he is far superior to Tansy and her childishness.
James Westmoreland is Cornelius, Tansy’s new-found American friend who has the same zest for living that she does. Tansy starts spending her days with Cornelius, showing him the sites of London and becoming even better friends with him. I truly appreciated the genuine, gentle friendship of Tansy and Cornelius – they are not lovers, just terrific pals who are fond of each other. If you’re lucky enough to have that kind of a friendship with a guy, you’ll know what I mean when I say that it’s one of the best kinds of friendships to have.
Throughout the story, Sir Matthew and General Barclay stick their noses into the love lives of their children and try to sway outcomes. There’s quite a lot of discussion in the film about meddling old people who should mind their own business. It’s rather amusing.
I’m not going to tell you any more of the story, because I don’t want to give away the ending.
Juliet Mills is simply adorable as Tansy. She’s the daughter of John Mills and sister of Hayley. I was reading about how this film was released at the same time as the Hayley Mills smasher Pollyanna, so Juliet got pushed aside. I think this occurrence is totally unfair. No offense to Hayley, but Juliet is just as interesting on screen as her little sister – actually I’d vote more so. It’s sad how little known Juliet was in America before her role on the soap opera Passions. Oh, the infurations of film making!
Both Michael Craig and James Westmoreland are totally swoon-worthy in their roles. I’m searching out their other films so I can dote on them. I’m so torn as to which is my favorite over the other. I think maybe I’ll let them be tied at first place!
Michael Redgrave and Roger Livesey are always enjoyable. Michael Redgrave is quite a head turner, himself. He’s quite appealing in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938). Roger Livesey is best known to me for the title role in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943).
No, My Darling Daughter is tragically not available on DVD, though it’s pretty high on TCM’s “Not on DVD List.” I couldn’t find it on Netflix, either. *sigh* It’s a British made film, so the likelihood of it having been released on VHS here in the US isn’t very high.
However, a vintage car buff has posted this accelerated version of the film on YouTube, and you can meet all the characters. This video is quite funny because it follows the film through all the sequences of a car.
April 14, 2009 Update: Nicole is converted! Read her terrific review here.