Sunday, July 20, 2008

Green Dolphin Street (1947)

For those who like movies about nuns, Green Dolphin Street is one of the best. The nuns appear only on the periphery, but it is a vital periphery, encircling the characters throughout the duration of their adventures with a sense of the mystery of Providence. I confess to having not yet read the novel by Elizabeth Goudge so cannot compare it with the film. Lana Turner and Donna Reed play the daughters of a wealthy but devout merchant and his wife on one of the Channel Islands in the 1830's. Monsieur and Madame Patourel did not originally marry for love but come to share a great devotion for each other that supersedes any lost youthful passion. Lana is cast against type; instead of the usual femme fatale, she portrays Marianne, the more practical and plainer of the sisters. Donna is Marguerite, the ethereal beauty of the family, who eventually finds in herself a strength she did not know she possessed. The knowledge does not come until she is ground into the dust, which in this case is the sand of the beach.

Both sisters are smitten with the dashing, hard-drinking William Ozanne (Richard Hart). How typical for teenage girls to be goofy over such a weakling pretty-boy while ignoring the rough and ready, hard-working Timothy Haslam, portrayed by Van Heflin. Timothy nourishes a secret, lifelong love for Marianne, and pulls many strings on her behalf throughout the story. After getting in trouble with the law, Timothy is forced to flee to New Zealand where he reinvents himself. He earns the respect of the Maoris, who dub him "Tai Haruru." William ends up in New Zealand, too, after a series of mishaps, and becomes the business partner of Tai. In a drunken stupor, William writes to Marguerite (Donna Reed) asking her to become his wife, but he mistakenly scrawls her sister's name instead. He is heartbroken when it is Marianne who travels half way around the world instead of Marguerite; Tai forces William to marry her. Marianne, blissfully unaware of the mistake, embarks on a stormy life in the wilds of New Zealand. She fights constantly with Tai, although he delivers her from one calamity after another. She soon realizes that she loves him, but is resolved to stay with her husband no matter what.

Meanwhile, back home on the Island, both the old parents have died, and Marguerite is left alone and heartbroken. She becomes trapped in a smugglers' cave by the incoming tide, and must struggle upward through a steep tunnel. The scene captures magnificently the abandonment of a soul in agony. She finds herself in the monastery garden on the top of the mountain. A new spiritual journey has begun.

It is during final scene of the nuns' clothing ceremony that the characters find peace and resolution which their choices in life, most of which occurred seemingly as the result of accidents. But is there really such a thing as an accident for those who believe in God? That is the question the film seeks to answer.... Share


Aunty Belle said...

Oh! I loved Elizabeth Goudge novels when I was growing up...I read Child From the Sea when I found it on my grandmother's bedside table. I'd read Green Dolphin Street, and when I saw
The Child From the Sea, I could not wait for her to finish it.

It is a great read--did Charles Stuart, Prince of Wales, secretly marry Lucy Walters as many claim he had?

I always enjoy your posts and learn so much!

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Aunty Belle!

wendybirde said...

I never saw the movie, but the book is just amazing! She's one of my favorite authors...The Herb of Grace (or Pilgrim's Inn) is another really good one.

Will have to see this movie...

Peaceful Week to You : ) Wendy

Enbrethiliel said...


I love this movie! =D

What man tangles into knots, God weaves into a tapestery.

I actually had no idea that it was based on a novel. I'll have to check out Elizabeth Goudge now.

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

I just put the video on hold at my library! Thanks! Now I Want to read the books too!