Donald Crisp

The Valley of Decision (1945)

The Valley of Decision PosterMary Rafferty (Greer Garson) comes from a family of poor Irish immigrants.  After living with her wheelchair bound father Pat (Lionel Barrymore) and widowed sister in a rundown house, Mary suddenly finds herself living with one of the most prominent families in Pittsburgh, the Scotts, when she lands a job as a live-in maid for them.  The Scotts own a steel mill where Pat had worked until he lost his legs in an accident at the mill.  Pat holds a grudge against the Scott family because of it and doesn’t approve of Mary’s new job, but she accepts the job anyway.

Mary has no problem adjusting to her new job at the Scott family home and she quickly becomes like another member of the family.  Matriarch Clarissa Scott (Gladys Cooper) considers Mary to be her closest confidante, she becomes a good friend to Constance (Marsha Hunt), and there’s an attraction between her and Paul (Gregory Peck).  Despite the attraction between Paul and Mary, it’s expected that Paul will marry gold digger Louise Kane (Jessica Tandy).  A year later, Paul proposes to Mary, but she turns him down because she doesn’t think it would be proper for him to marry a maid.

After Constance gets married, Mary goes to England to work for her and her new husband.  She stays with them for two years and while she’s gone, Paul’s father William (Donald Crisp) starts pressuring Paul to get married.  He hadn’t realized Paul was in love with Mary so when he finds out, he sends for Mary to come back to Pittsburgh immediately.  But when she returns, she comes home to find a strike happening at the Scott steel mill being led by none other than her father.  She tries to work out a truce between the workers and the Scotts, but a riot breaks out, killing Pat and William.  Mary is so heartbroken that she tells Paul they can never be married.

Ten years pass and Paul has since married Louise and Clarissa is nearing the end of her life.  Knowing Paul is the only one of her children interested in the family steel mill, she decides to leave her share of the mill to Mary in her will so she can help him keep the mill in the family.  Clarissa’s prediction comes true and after she passes away, her children start looking to sell the mill, with Paul being the only hold out.  Mary sides with him and helps convince Constance to change her mind.  With the mill saved, Paul decides to end his loveless marriage to Louise to be with the woman he’s loved all along — Mary.

The Valley of Decision is hardly a bad movie, but I just had a hard time getting into it.  Gregory Peck and Greer Garson are good, it’s not badly written, it boasts high production values, but it just didn’t grab my interest the way many other movies do.  But if you see it coming up on TCM, it’s worth giving a look. It may not have done much for me, but I can see how other people would enjoy it.

The Uninvited (1944)

Have you ever gone someplace on vacation and wished you could impulsively buy a house and live there?  Well when brother and sister Rick (Ray Milland) and Pamela (Ruth Hussey) Fitzgerald take a vacation on the Devonshire Coast, that’s just what they do.  While walking with their dog one day, the dog starts chasing a squirrel and they lead Rick and Pamela to a beautiful, old, abandoned house.  They take a look around the house and fall in love with the place.  Both of them would love to buy it, and although Rick has some reservations, Pamela insists that they should go through with it ASAP.  They go to see the house’s owner Commander Beach (Donald Crisp) to make an offer on the place, but when they arrive, he isn’t at home.  Instead they meet Stella Meredith (Gail Russell), his granddaughter.  At first, Stella is very friendly with them, but she suddenly turns cold when she finds out why they were there.  The house they want to buy had once belonged to her mother, who died on the property when she was very young.  When Commander comes home again, Stella begs him not to sell the house.  But ultimately, he’s so desperate to be rid of the place since the maintenance is so expensive that he gladly accepts the Fitzgeralds’ very low offer.  Well, that and he believes the house is haunted.

When the Commander mentions that some of the house’s past occupants had complained about the house being haunted, Rick and Pamela aren’t fazed at all.  They’re eager to move in and go back to the house to look around some more.  This time they find a large artist’s studio with a great ocean view that for some reason, Pam thinks is the one ugly room in the house.  Even though Rick thinks it’d be a great space for him to work in, there’s no denying that the room has an eerie chill in there.  Plus they notice their dog refuses to go upstairs for some reason.  The next day, as Rick is getting ready to go back home to get their things, he hears more rumors about the house being haunted from the local store clerk.  Before he leaves town, he runs into Stella, who apologizes for being rude to them before.  Rick has no hard feelings toward Stella, actually he’s attracted to her, and the two of them end up spending the afternoon sailing together.  The two end up becoming friends and before he leaves town, he invites Stella to come by the house to visit Pamela while he’s away.

Rick returns to find that Pamela has done wonderful job of getting the house in shape while he was away.  But that night, Rick and Pamela hear some mysterious sobbing and begin to think that maybe, just maybe, there was some truth to the rumors about the place being haunted.  They start trying to find out more about the history of the place and deduce that it must be haunted by the ghost of Stella’s mother.  The Commander is truly upset by this idea and doesn’t want Stella to have anything to do with the Fitzgeralds, but one night, she sneaks over to their house anyway.  Stella senses a spirit in the house and believes it to be her mother, but while Rick is playing a song for her on the piano, Stella suddenly starts running toward the cliff that her mother had fallen off of.  Rick stops her in time, but Stella has no memory of how she got there.  Before they get back inside, they hear their maid Lizzie screaming about something.  She had seen a mist in the shape of a woman in the studio and when Stella goes to investigate, the room turns suddenly cold and she faints.  They send for Dr. Scott (Alan Napier) to check on her and he spends the rest of the night telling them about how Stella’s father had an affair with a woman named Carmel and Carmel was the one who pushed Stella’s mother off the cliff.

When Dr. Scott says Stella is well enough to leave, they decide that it’s not safe for her to come back.  But knowing that Stella isn’t going to want to stay away from the house, they decide to stage a séance and fix it to make her believe that the ghost of her mother wants her to stay out of the house.  During the séance, Rick and Dr. Scott do their best to make the Ouija board say what they want it to, but a ghost does take over and tells Stella that she should stay.  Not only that, it also becomes clear that there are two ghosts, not one: Stella’s mother and Carmel.  But their séance is interrupted by the Commander who has come to take Stella away.  The next day, Rick starts talking to Lizzie about how they want to know more about the incident between Stella’s mother and Carmel, but all the people directly involved with the incident are now dead.  Lizzie mentions that Miss Holloway, a close friend of Stella’s mother, is still alive and is running a sanitarium.  Rick and Pamela go to see Miss Holloway, but what they don’t know is that the Commander had brought Stella to Miss Holloway’s.  But when they find out, they try to go back for Stella only to find that Stella has been sent back to the Fitzgeralds’.  When they get back home again, they find that one of the ghosts has something important to tell them.

When it comes to horror movies, I tend to go for movies that are creepy and eerie rather than gory so The Uninvited was right up my alley.  I was impressed by how much it seemed like a real ghost story.  This story was something like you would hear on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries or one of the many ghost-related shows the Biography channel plays every Saturday.  But The Uninvited is far superior to any Unsolved Mysteries reenactment.  I loved the acting and the general atmosphere of the movie.  This is a perfect movie to watch on a cool, rainy October night.  It’s a perfect Halloween movie and I’m not sure why it took me this long to get around to seeing it.