“Eloise Winters! I thought you were a ‘nice girl’!”
An unhappily married woman (Susan Hayward) reminisces with her former college roommate (Lois Wheeler) about her romance with a dashing soldier (Dana Andrews), and how she eventually came to steal away Wheeler’s dull boyfriend (Kent Smith).
My Foolish Heart is perhaps best known as the only authorized film adaptation of any work by J.D. Salinger, who was so deeply distressed by how his short story “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” was translated to the screen that he never allowed his cult classic The Catcher in the Rye to be made into a movie. It’s easy to see how a notoriously iconoclastic author like Salinger might take umbrage at this soaper, which was critically lambasted upon its release, and far too often devolves into cliches. Indeed, the film is actually flawed from the get-go, given that Hayward (who, as always, does her best with the material she’s given) is immediately presented to us in such an entirely unflattering light — she drinks too much, takes her beautiful home for granted, and treats her loyal husband like s**t — that we’re never really won over to her side, no matter how “innocent” her past turns out to be.
With that said, the script does possess a surprising number of well-crafted moments — such as the entire initial interaction between Hayward and Andrews the night they meet-cute at a party. Their conversation together afterwards feels surprisingly authentic (not to mention risque); and, once Hayward has left Andrews’ apartment, I like how the camera lingers silently on him, as he eventually walks over to his sink to start washing the pile of dirty dishes Hayward commented on earlier. It all just feels real, in a way Hollywood films of that era seldom do. It’s too bad, then, that the framing narrative of the film is so disappointing — especially the pat denouement, which makes little emotional sense. Salinger did deserve better than that, at least.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Susan Hayward as Eloise (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actresses of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
- An occasionally inspired screenplay by Julius and Philip Epstein
No, but it’s recommended for one-time viewing. Listed as a Sleeper in the back of Peary’s book.