My Reputation (1946)
Directed by Curtis Bernhardt this Clare Jaynes novel (Instruct My Sorrows) was adapted by Catherine Turney. It stars Barbara Stanwyck as a young widow whose overbearing mother played by Lucile Watson and conservative friends try to control or restrict her “love life” especially once she meets a carefree military officer played by George Brent.
Jessica Drummond (Stanwyck) is comforted by the executor of her husband’s estate lawyer Frank Everett (Warner Anderson) who’s been a family friend for years and later shows an interest in dating “Jess”. Her mother (Watson) has worn black for decades since her husband passed and would love for her daughter to follow her example. Jess has two young boys: Kim (Scotty Beckett) who is fourteen and Keith (Bobby Cooper) who’s twelve. Both go off to school leaving their newly widowed mother at home alone to deal with her loneliness. She tries to reconnect with the “old gang” that she and her husband socialized with while he was alive but finds they remind her too much of him. She’s even accosted by one them George Van Orman (Jerome Cowan) when he brings her home one night. Fortunately she has a real friend in Gina Abbott (Eve Arden) whom she runs to and stays with the night she was accosted. Gina and her husband Cary (John Ridgely) invite Jess to spend a week’s vacation at Lake Tahoe with them.
When Jess finds herself lost somewhere on the slopes with a broken ski she meets Major Scott Landis (Brent). He helps her back to the Abbott’s lodge where she introduces them to Scott. After an evening of socializing he spends the night downstairs on the sofa. That week Jess and Scott get to know each other better but she spurns his advances. Given her conservative upbringing she accuses him of spoiling their good time and she directs him to leave without an appropriate goodbye or discussion about any future.
Back in Lake Forest just outside Chicago Jess finds herself alone again except for her longtime housekeeper & cook Anna (Esther Dale). Frank comes to call and is invited to join them for dinner. However just then the phone rings and it’s Gina who tells Jess than she and Cary are out at a club where they’ve spotted Major Landis. So Jess asks Frank if they can go out instead of eating at home and then goes to get all dressed up. Once at the club Jess initiates “bumping into” Scott and finds out that he’s been stationed in Chicago before he gets his orders for overseas which could come at any time.
Another day Scott invites Jess to meet him at his apartment before going out to dinner. And finally after 50 minutes of the movie we have idea of where it got its name. A friend of Jess’s mother Stella Thompson (Cecil Cunningham) sees Jess enter the Major’s apartment which later she evidently spreads as gossip. Of course this becomes a subject of discussion among Jess’s (and her former husband’s) social friends including Riette Van Orman (Leona Maricle) the lecherous George’s wife and eventually their children. In fact upon returning for the holidays Kim & Keith learn of their mother’s “affairs” at the Van Orman’s daughter Gretchen’s (Ann E. Todd) party. There is a priceless scene in which Jess’s mother confronts Scott on Christmas Eve while everyone including Frank and the Abbotts are busy trimming the tree. All the while however Jess’s relationship with Scott could best be described as platonic though Jess has begun to return some of Scott’s affections for her initially out of spite for the rumor mill. She later confronts it head-on in the person of Ms. Van Orman.
All in all this is a terribly dated film. In fact it was curiously released after the war (World War II) had ended. So even at that time it was out of date. Though it’s always worth seeing a Barbara Stanwyck performance there aren’t really enough good scenes in this film for me to recommend it without reservations. The ending is particularly simplistic.