Green Dolphin Street (1947) - full review!
Directed by Victor Saville, with a screenplay by Samson Raphaelson that was based on the book by Elizabeth Goudge, the first winner of the annual $200,000 MGM Novel Award (a way for the studio to buy film rights before publication; none of the later winners were filmed), this overlong adventure-romance drama is notable for its Academy Award winning Special Effects, which include both an earthquake and a subsequent flood; the flooding portrayed occurs in a region of New Zealand near Wellington. George Folsey also earned the eighth of his thirteen unrewarded Oscar nominations for his B&W Cinematography; George White received his first and only nomination for Editing, and the film's Sound Recording was also Oscar nominated. The cast includes Lana Turner and Donna Reed playing sisters, Van Heflin and Richard Hart (who looks a bit like a young Laurence Olivier) in his film debut playing the two men who love them, Frank Morgan, Edmund Gwenn, Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, and Gladys Cooper (among others). Actor Hart didn't make many films; he died a little more than 3 years after this film's release, at age 35.
"A hundred years ago on an island called Saint Pierre (which looks suspiciously like Mont Saint Michel, just off the north coast of France) in the English Channel", at the convent which rests at the top of this rocky cone-shaped 'mountain', Mother Superior (Whitty) receives a letter which tells that Dr. Edmund Ozanne (Morgan) is coming back home to settle there. She is quick to visit Sophie Patourel (Cooper), who had been the forbidden love of his life, but Sophie's wealthy parents would not allow her to marry below her class. Sophie later married Octavius Patourel (Gwenn) and, currently, they have two comely daughters, Marianne (Turner) and Marguerite (Reed). Like her mother, Marianne is coveted, though from afar without her knowledge, by a (lower) working class craftsman named Timothy Haslam (Heflin). Dr. Ozanne moves in across the street with his eligible bachelor son William (Hart). Both men soon meet the Patourel’s daughters, who've come to meet their new neighbors; they're saved from a potentially embarrassing introduction by their mother Sophie, who arrives in time to steer the conversation. William makes an impression on both young ladies: despite his unkempt appearance and indifference to her, Marianne sees his potential whereas Marguerite is instantly smitten with him (per his good looks?).
Sporting a knife wound, Haslam visits the doctor, whom he talks out of reporting the injury to the police. Marianne and William both admire a new clipper ship, the Green Dolphin, from ashore, and decide to row out to see her. She thinks it's a good omen that the ship bears the same name as his house's street. Captain O'Hara (Owen) greets them and welcomes them about where he regales them with tales of his voyages and native home, New Zealand. He gives them each a gift while he shares his breakfast with them. Marianne impresses the captain with her knowledge of ships; her father Octavius runs a shipping business. Meanwhile, O'Hara's crew has discovered a stowaway, Haslam, who explains his injury by explaining he'd killed a man in self defense. Needing another able bodied seaman, the captain tells his crew to hide Haslam below decks until they sail. Neither Marianne nor William saw any of this, and soon she is planning his future, using her father and his influence to get her would-be suitor a position aboard the H.M.S. Orion. In a few years time on "his majesty's ship", William should become an officer and a gentleman, and a suitable husband for Marianne.
But William's heart belongs to the simpler Marguerite, for whom (after a couple of years at sea; his father dies on one of his return trips home) he buys an engagement necklace while in the Orient to mail to her. Afterwards, however, he reenters the establishment where he is then given a Mickey Finn, taken advantage of, and left unconscious on the shoreline. He's missed his ship and is now, effectively, a deserter. Fortunately, the Green Dolphin is in port and William is given passage to New Zealand by Captain O'Hara. There, he meets Haslam, now known by the Maori natives as "Tai Haruru", who's a respected man in Wellington; he runs a successful lumber business. Haslam employs William who, once on his feet again (a couple of years later), writes a letter to Octavius for permission to marry his favorite Patourel daughter. The only problem is that he was drunk, and O'Hara unwittingly delivers the letter which actually asks for Marianne's hand in lieu of Marguerite's. Both daughters are stunned, as is their mother Sophie who had just learned of the necklace from Marguerite, but soon Marianne is happily sailing for New Zealand.
Haslam learns of William's letter as the Green Dolphin is coming into port in Wellington. Though he'd been relieved to learn that his (now) partner wanted Marguerite, Haslam is the first to see Marianne aboard the ship. He then 'forces' William to agree to marry Marianne and never let her know that he'd intended otherwise. Their marriage is predictably sad, though Marianne is soon with child. Haslam tolerates Marianne's interference in his business, which includes changing the way the trees get from the remote region where they live to the ports, and tries to keep the Ozanne’s together. That's when the Oscar winning Special Effects (a five minute sequence) are displayed: an earthquake complete with falling trees that are fatal to many of the natives. A dam breaks, or the side of a mountain falls, such that a huge torrent of water rushes down the countryside and into the river where William had been transporting the lumber; his fate is unknown. Meanwhile, Haslam had saved Marianne and even helped her to give birth to a daughter, whom she names Marguerite Veronica (and who's later played by Gigi Perreau, age 4). Of course, William survived though he's none too pleased by his daughter's name, and insists they call her Veronica. Later, a Maori uprising provides another situation for Haslam to rescue the Ozannes, who soon decide to move to Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand where they establish a successful shipping business with some others; Haslam had declined to go with them, but did privately reveal to Marianne his secret love for her before she left. William gives his wife full credit for their business's success in a speech to his 'new' partners.
Eventually, the Ozannes decide to return to St. Pierre where Marguerite is about to become a nun. She had lived with her parents until each had died, Octavius dying shortly after Sophie, who'd delivered a deathbed confession that (after having been forbidden to marry Edmund, and lost what she'd thought was to have been the love of her life) she'd grown to love her kind husband anyway. Lost and alone, Marguerite found God and the convent, which she'd actually had to climb a smuggler's vertical tunnel to reach (a statue of St. Peter); Mother Superior had provided her a bible so that she could find the former. When Marianne and William return, she learns of her husband's proposal to her sister when Veronica accidentally finds the necklace and the letter. Upon confronting him and learning the truth of it, Marianne refuses to listen to William's protestations that 'that was then, this is now' he loves her now. At the convent, she tells Marguerite what she knows, but her sister speaks of God; Marguerite explains her new love, mission, and commitment and asks Marianne to understand, which she does. She's then willing and able to hear and believe William, who tells her again that he loves her and not Marguerite. Both realize their love for each other will be as everlasting as Marguerite's is for God as they watch her complete her vows.