As I was watching Magnificent Obsession, I found myself thinking quite a bit about Random Harvest and comparing the two. Improbable situations? Check. Impossible coincidences? Check. Relentless over-long melodrama? Check, check, checkity, check! And like Random Harvest, a movie I liked despite its rather glaring flaws, I found myself totally getting into Magnificent Obsession. Once again the leads, Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor save the day. What would we do if corny novels were made into films with weak actors? Well, we wouldn't watch them, I guess. Dunne and Taylor are supported by Charles Butterworth and Arthur Treacher who provide the much-needed comic relief.
The story begins with the accidental drowning of a famous and beloved doctor. The doctor's life wasn't saved because some lung contraption was being used over at Bobby Merrick's (Robert Taylor) house after he fell in the lake, drunk. A few days later, Bobby and the doctor's widow have a meet cute moment right out of a Powell and Loy movie. Naturally she loathes him because he "killed her husband," (Wha???) and naturally he dedicates himself to making her love him (double wha???). He tries more screwball nonsense ala Love Crazy and she winds up getting hit by a car and going blind. Ha. ha.
You would think with my love of screwball comedy that I would have just shut the movie off right then, wouldn't you? After all this movie seems to be on some kind of mission to preach responsibility and show lightheartedness as akin to homicidal tendencies. Perhaps because the script was just so completely inflexible on the topic, I hung in there. I just had to see what they came up with next. And boy, oh boy was it worth it. Bobby befriends the widow Hudson and pays for her to see the best specialists in the world. When they can do nothing he goes to medical school and becomes a Nobel Prize winning brain surgeon so that he can perform the surgery himself. Of course this is handled in 90 second montage just to make it all the more hilariously unbelievable. I don't want to see Taylor as a brain surgeon any more than I want to see him as an off the hook drunken playboy going through a religious conversion, which he also does in this film. There is something so wonderfully controlled about Taylor, so smooth and perfect. He really could act and he proves that here, but like Cary Grant, I enjoy watching him embodying his own persona most of all. My favorite scenes with him are those when he is the unrepentant playboy, climbing out of windows and making nurses laugh.
Irene Dunne is terrific of course. She always is. I could watch her read the phone book and in Magnificent Obsession she practically does. Well, she reads books in braille which is almost as exciting.
Magnicent Harvest, I mean Random Obsession, no.... Magnificent Obsession was remade in the 1950s with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. It was the go-to script for proving that pretty boy actors had "unsuspected depth," I guess. But I'm left wondering what's wrong with Robert Taylor being really good at being Robert Taylor? It's a gift from God to be so beautiful and charming that people fall in love with you in two seconds. I'd say it's more important than being a Nobel Prize winning surgeon. Brother, those are a dime a dozen, but the Robert Taylors only come along every fifty years or so.
Bridget Jones's Dairy (2001)
7 years ago