My Reputation, 1946
Stanwyck & George Brent go skiing
My Reputation, released January 25, 1946. Directed by Curtis Bernhardt
Stanwyck is a widow (Jessica Drummond) who collides on the snow with soldier on leave Major Scott Landis (played by George Brent) and a whirlwind romance starts up, before getting squashed by the heavy obligations of Stanwyck's family and social position.
The film pits Stanwyck up against the complicated responsibilities of her social status (well-to-do, old family name) and some ugly gossip which erupts then circulates through her town. This pressure gets combined with Jessica's dominating mother who wields an exacting sense of how a widow should act, dress and especially behave.
Eventually Stanwyck will fight for her freedom to live her own life, but meanwhile she has to juggle her children, her crush on George Brent, and the grief for her dead husband.
Films like this were called "women's pictures" or "weepers" in an era in which a whole genre existed to explore the tribulations of American womanhood, though My Reputation goes a bit further in trying to establish that a young female can (or should) lay claim to making their own moral decisions even if it meant contravening social conventions.
Since those social conventions were already rapidly changing in the American upheaval from World War II, this movie is not particularly revolutionary. But Stanwyck presents a fine performance which shifts the film from mere soap opera into well done (though soapy) melodrama, with George Brent looking on with a puzzled expression (why doesn't Jessica just do whatever she wants to do? It's what he does...).
The snobs are portrayed as cruel people, and the friends break into two classes: Eve Arden (a true friend) and the rest who have social conventions and gossip (and fear of gossip) wrapped around their heads (and hearts).
James Wong Howe's photography creates several worlds; a California snowscape, a rigid and antique New England, and the interior of night clubs and restaurants where people get together to form groups, but it becomes a lonely environment for the woman who chooses to go her own way.
Original Page April 2015
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