“Oh no, it’s not haunted — just enchanted.”
A fighter pilot (Robert Young) disfigured in the war goes to live in a cottage managed by a widow (Mildred Natwick) and a homely young girl (Dorothy McGuire). He eventually marries McGuire simply to prevent his concerned mother (Spring Byington) from meddling in his life — but as the two begin to fall in love, they mysteriously find themselves looking more and more attractive to each other.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Disfigured Faces
- Dorothy McGuire Films
- Herbert Marshall Films
- John Cromwell Films
- Play Adaptation
- Robert Young Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary begins his review of John Cromwell’s The Enchanted Cottage by noting that “one of Hollywood’s schmaltziest films has found the soft spot in enough moviegoers’ hearts to make it a cult film of sorts” — thus presumably justifying its inclusion in his book, given that he spends the rest of his short review roundly criticizing it. Despite acknowledging that “Young and McGuire give sensitive performances”, he insists that they’re “done in by [an] embarrassing script by Herman Mankiewicz and De Witt Bodeen, and overwhelmed by lush music”; in sum, he states, “The syrup is laid on thick and it’s a bad brand”. And he’s not alone in his negative assessment: Time Out refers to it as “icky romantic whimsy”, while TCM’s staff writer simply concedes it’s “a movie with its heart in the right place”.
I actually don’t find the script to be “embarrassing”, given that it unabashedly sets out to tell a particular tale of romance between two deeply troubled individuals. The “fantasy” element (i.e., the fact that Young and McGuire genuinely believe they’re seeing physical changes in each other) mostly worked for me, on a metaphorical level; let’s just say I was willing to go along for the ride. What’s less convincing is McGuire’s physical appearance as a dowdy lass: it’s perfectly true, as many have pointed out, that her “defects” could be (and are) easily fixed by a new haircut, a bit of make-up, and a renewed sense of self-confidence. One scene — in which multiple GIs at a dance glance at her from afar, then turn away once they get a closer look — edges close to campy melodrama, but is believable if you’re willing to acknowledge that McGuire (prior to falling in love with Young) simply projects, without meaning to, some kind of “stay away from me” vibe of “ugliness”.
Young, meanwhile, does a fine job shifting from self-assured pilot to embittered veteran to a man renewed by love; and Natwick projects an appropriate aura of mystery as a landlady who’s lived with her house’s secrets for many decades.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Robert Young as Oliver
- A touching, unconventional romance
- Ted Tetzlaff’s romantic cinematography
No, though it’s recommended simply for its cult status — and you may actually enjoy it!