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Tish (1942)

Tish (1942)

Directed by S. Sylvan Simon (who produced Born Yesterday (1950)) these Mary Roberts Rinehart stories were adapted by Annalee Whitmore & Thomas Seller though Harry Ruskin is credited with writing the screenplay. The film is a comedy-drama about a busybody the title character played by Marjorie Main (The Egg and I (1947)) and the effects of her actions in a small town. Main plays the role as a likable character despite her interference in the lives of several members of the community. Though not a great film by any stretch of the imagination there are several notable character actors in this film which make it enjoyable for a fan of movies from this era.

Miss Letitia Carberry Tish lives with her nephew Charlie Sands (Lee Bowman) who’s editor of the local newspaper. Their maid (Ruby Dandridge uncredited) can’t keep up with Tish’s activities she always wants to try out the latest gadgets (skates bicycles yo-yo’s bobsleds) nor her foul language there is a “swearing box” Tish must deposit coins into after each occurrence. On the way to church Charlie and Tish stop at a women’s boarding house to give rides to Tish’s two “old maid” friends Aggie Pilkington (Zasu Pitts) and Lizzie Wilkins (Aline MacMahon – Dragon Seed (1944)) as well as 18 year old orphan Cora Edwards (Susan Peters – Random Harvest (1942)) who has a crush on 31 year old Charlie. Once they arrive Tish chastises Reverend Ostermaier (Al Shean) for picking tulips and hands him his sermon which she tells him she’s edited. However Judge Horace Bowser (Guy Kibbee) says he liked the sermon he’d helped the Reverend write and insists he keep it as is. This is just the first of many conflicts all comical between the two who are in essence strong willed rivals in the small community. Their rivalry is compounded by the fact that Tish is hoping her nephew will take notice of young Cora while Charlie seems only interested in the Judge’s daughter Kit (Virginia Grey) at the same time that the Judge’s son Ted (Richard Quine) has eyes for Cora.

With help from her friends Aggie & Lizzie Tish plans a camping trip so that Charlie can get to know Cora better. Of course the adventure fails to produce the desired result. However there are several humorous scenes especially those involving the three old maids which even those who are unfamiliar with these great character actresses (Main Pitts and MacMahon) should enjoy. Plus prolific character actors George Humbert playing a man who’s lost his dancing bear in the woods and Robert Emmett O’Connor who plays the game warden that arrests the ladies also appear uncredited. Naturally the women are then brought before Judge Bowser who is embarrassed by Tish before Charlie suggests a way for him to end the proceedings. While camping Charlie helped Cora come to the realization that she loves Ted though she didn’t verbalize this to him. Ted gets an opportunity to ferry planes overseas to help the war effort. When he discusses this with Cora they decide to elope before he leaves but because they’re underage keep it a secret from everyone else. In fact Ted leaves town without telling anyone else specifically where he’s going.

Charlie and Kit are married Cora catches the bouquet. Kit then moves in with Charlie & Tish along with her father’s butler Parkins (Gerald Oliver Smith uncredited) and starts to make the home her own upsetting Tish. But Tish accepts the situation and moves into the boarding house with Aggie & Lizzie. Soon Tish is running the boarding house the way she wants it. Cora receives a letter from Ted in Canada where he’s been training that he wishes he could afford to come see her before he makes his first overseas flight. Tish along with her two friends had been in charge of their church’s organ fund. However they’d only saved $885.26 over eight years so at a meeting the Judge demands to have a crack at it. Before Tish hands the funds over she discovers an IOU with a scant explanation from Cora for $150 in her purse. Cora had left to be with Ted. Tish accepts responsibility for the shortfall saying she took the money but will pay it back as soon as she can. Her friends Aggie & Lizzie promise to help.

*** SPOILERS ***

Months later in Toronto Cora is trying to write a money order to return the $150 to Tish when she receives a telegram which states that Ted was lost at sea. She faints while dropping the telegram in the trash and dies giving birth to a boy. Tish is contacted because her name was on the money order and upon reading a letter from Cora which seems to indicate Charlie is its father claims to be the baby’s grandmother. She returns to the small town where she’d instructed Aggie & Lizzie to find a remote home where the three of them could live. Tish tells her friends to pretend she adopted the baby in Chicago. When Charlie then arrives she is “forced” to tell him yet another story that it’s her own. Thinking his aunt is crazy and urged by Judge Bowser Ted has Tish committed to a sanitarium. There even though her friends try to help her breakout Tish loses her spirit. Determined to help their distraught friend Aggie & Lizzie go to the Judge to show them Cora’s letter which seems to implicate that Charlie is the baby’s father. Of course not even Kit believes them and thankfully the truth is revealed when Ted returns unharmed and informs everyone of the baby’s parentage. Tish has been shown to be a self sacrificing saint and Ted asks her to take care of his baby because he plans to join the U.S. Army. The film ends with Tish taking charge again filling the “swearing box” with coins as she fires Parkins with her colorful language.

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