Enchanted Cottage, The (1945) - full review!
Directed by John Cromwell, with a screenplay by DeWitt Bodeen and Herman J. Mankiewicz (Citizen Kane (1941)) that was based on a play by Arthur Wing Pinero, this slightly above average romance drama stars Dorothy McGuire, Robert Young, Herbert Marshall, Mildred Natwick, and Spring Byington (among others). The film's Score was nominated for an Academy Award, representing the last Oscar nomination for Roy Webb. Herbert Marshall plays Major John Hillgrove, a blind pianist (due to injuries received as a pilot during World War I) who recalls this story in flashback:
Laura Pennington (McGuire) was a homely young woman who found employment working for Mrs. Abigail Minnett (Natwick) when the war widow housekeeper needed a maid to help put and keep her cottage in order for a young ‘about to be married’ couple that wanted to rent it. The cottage, thought to be haunted, was really an enchanted one in Laura's eyes, the only part of a much larger castle-sized estate that remained and used to be rented exclusively to honeymoon couples. Mrs. Minnett discontinued the practice when her husband was killed in the war some 24 years earlier. Oliver Bradford (Young) had discovered the cottage, begged and convinced Mrs. Minnett to rent it to him, and his bride-to-be Beatrice Alexander (Hillary Brooke). Laura tells Oliver about the cottage's history and shows him where the newlyweds had etched their names on a window. However, pilot Oliver is called to fight World War II before the wedding.
Oliver returns to the cottage alone one year later, after being injured and scarred, his face and emotionally, and crippled during the war. He wants to avoid all human contact, especially with Beatrice, his mother Violet (Byington) and his stepfather Freddy Price (Richard Gaines). However, he gets to know Laura, who's still living there having been earlier embarrassed at a canteen when no one wanted to dance with her; she's kind to him, understanding what it is to be ugly. Oliver is also befriended by John, who gets about with the aid of his nephew Danny (Alec Englander). In time, Oliver and Laura grow close and even marry, out of convenience, but their relationship quickly grows into true love, one that transform their views of one another into a belief that they've both become beautiful. They share this remarkable occurrence with John who, based on their description of Mrs. Minnett’s reaction, understands the situation. He tells them to ‘go with it’, steal the moment and enjoy their good fortune.
Unfortunately, both learn the truth of the matter later, when Violet and Freddy come for a visit and Oliver's mother can't help but express her pity for them both, despite John's prior preparation, warnings, and pleadings. There has been no physical transformation (something which would have been readily obvious if the couple had been touching one another, right?), though Mrs. Minnett was inspired to live in the present. But, whereas John had assumed that this information would have been the couple's undoing, it doesn't affect them. Both realize that the real miracle is their love, and they scratch their names on the window. The final scene, back in ‘present’ times, shows John playing the piano at a party; he'd been waiting for the Bradfords to arrive. Oliver and Laura get there, but they stop and kiss at the door before entering (and the film ends before they do).