For Reel

Invitation (1952)
July 29, 2015, 12:37 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Gottfried Reinhardt
3.5 Stars
InvitationAs Invitation begins, Paul Osborn’s screenplay introduces a happy young woman (Dorothy McGuire) who seems perfectly content in a loving marriage with her husband (Van Johnson). Slowly, however, it is revealed that she is physically fragile, and a childhood bout of rheumatic fever has left her in shambles and with mere months left to live. Even more distressingly, she begins to understand that the man she loves was paid to marry her by her father (Louis Calhern). With shades of Dark Victory, Invitation is a familiar melodrama of the time, elevated significantly by the performance of the vastly underrated McGuire. If the latter half begins to drag, the first half of the picture is a knockout due to her sympathetic performance. Her discovery is equal parts heartbreaking and horrifying–a little Douglas Sirk here, a little Gaslight there. McGuire plays it with increasing hysterics before finally succumbing to a defeated, vacant stare, and director Gottfried Reinhardt has the sense to let much of the drama play out in long takes of McGuire’s expressions. Unfortunately the film gets less interesting as it enters the second half, which focuses primarily on the perspective of Johnson, a rather bland leading man and one who has little chemistry with McGuire (a detail that serves the plot in the early-goings, but becomes a glaring problem once it is revealed that his love is legitimate). Ruth Roman contributes an icy supporting role, and Calhern is terrific as the father–in one scene, he listens to his daughter breaking down over the phone. McGuire plays the scene with the appropriate histrionics, but Calhern’s understated, sullen face is the perfect response, conveying the deepest heartbreak with little else but the movement of his brow.

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