“There’s much to be said for a woman — even an imperfect one — who lives, breathes, and exists only for the man she loves.”
A middle-aged man (William Powell) on vacation in the Caribbean falls in love with a mermaid (Ann Blyth), and finds his marriage (to Irene Hervey) threatened.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Ann Blyth Films
- Flashback Films
- Mid-Life Crisis
- Romantic Comedy
- William Powell Films
As indicated in the quote cited above, this tepid romantic comedy by director Irving Pichel — based on Guy and Constance Jones’ novel Peabody’s Mermaid — unabashedly explores sex and relationships from a male point of view, specifically that of a 50-year-old married man rapidly embarking upon a mid-life crisis. Structured as a flashback story told to a psychiatrist (Art Smith), Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid is clearly meant to satirize the age-old trope of middle-aged men falling for naive girls half their age; indeed, Peabody makes no excuses for himself when describing — through voiceover — what he’s looking for in an ideal woman (“What I like is a woman who can’t do anything very much”), or telling the nubile, conveniently mute Lenore that in her eyes there exists both eternal wisdom and “the beauty of a child, too: simple, direct, uncomplicated.”
Unfortunately, while it’s clear that Peabody’s lust for Lenore is merely a symptom of his own male insecurity, his growing infatuation remains uncomfortable to watch — yet we’re stuck with nobody else to root for. While Ann Blyth does a nice job playing a character who must communicate exclusively through facial expressions and body language, she never emerges as a three-dimensional character, and Peabody’s wife (Irene Hervey) comes across as little more than a close-minded shrew. Meanwhile, an ongoing comedic riff about a morose investigator (Clinton Sundberg) who has recently given up both alcohol and cigarettes — and must deal with temptation everywhere he goes — is decidedly unfunny:
and Peabody’s biggest crisis — being double-crossed by Sundberg and eventually accused of murder — holds little interest. Ultimately, while Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid maintains a small coterie of devoted fans (click here to read a LOT more about this film’s inception — including the task of outfitting Blyth in her mermaid tail), it’s not must-see viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- William Powell as Mr. Peabody
- Ann Blyth as Lenore the Mermaid
- Powell’s humorous attempt to buy sweaters — then simply bikini tops — for Lenore
No; while beloved by some, this dated comedy hasn’t aged all that well.