Thursday, September 25, 2008

Only Yesterday

Only Yesterday. Margaret Sullavan (Mary Lane) and John Boles (Jim Emerson). Image: from CarensClassicCinema.

US © 1933 Universal. P: Carl Laemmle, Jr. D: John M. Stahl. SC: William Hurlbut, Arthur Richman, George O'Neill - based on [n.c.] the short story "Brief einer Unbekannten" (1922) by Stefan Zweig - based on Only Yesterday: An Informed History of the Nineteen-Twenties (1931) by Frederick Lewis Allen. DP: Merritt Gerstad. AD: Charles D. Hall. M: Constantine Bakaleinikoff. ED: Milton Carruth.
    Starring Margaret Sullavan (Mary Lane), John Boles (Jim Emerson), Billie Burke (Julia Warren). 105 min.
    A Universal Studios print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 24 September 2008. The first screening of this film in Finland.

A very good print.

The first 20 minutes are about the stock market crash of 1929. Jim is about to put a bullet through his head, when he receives the letter from the unknown woman.

The letter reveals to him that there has been a woman in his life that has remained unknown to him. In 1919, young Jim and Mary enjoy a night of love, Jim goes to the front in Europe, Mary becomes pregnant and has their child, but Jim forgets all about Mary, gets married with a society woman and becomes a big businessman.

Her son teases Mary to get married.

But in a New Year's party Mary sees Jim, and they meet in his bachelor apartment. Mary's heart is broken as she realizes that Jim has completely forgotten her and treats her as one of his one night stands. The heartbroken Mary dies.

Reading her letter of farewell Jim decides not to shoot himself and instead to find his son and take care of him.

Cinematically the film is routine, and the storytelling lacks punch, but Margaret Sullavan in her debut role is very touching.

The whole feeling of the Zweig story is changed because the man is not an artist but a businessman.

This is the only one of the first four Zweig adaptations that has no visual flair.

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