Secret Heart The (1946)
Directed by Robert Z. Leonard (The Great Ziegfeld (1936)) with writing credits which include Rose Franken & William Brown Meloney (story) and Anne Morrison Chapin & Whitfield Cook screenplay this average drama features a notable cast which includes Claudette Colbert Walter Pidgeon June Allyson and Lionel Barrymore.
Chase Addams (Robert Sterling) has just returned home from the war. He greets his girlfriend Kay (Patricia Medina) and learns that his mother Lee (Colbert) who’s a busy real estate agent is out. He hears his emotionally withdrawn sister Penny (Allyson) playing the piano upstairs and though Kay warns him not to goes up to see her. Apparently Penny only plays for her father who has been dead 10 years. Though she’s happy to see her brother after his three absence she won’t play for him either and he’s surprised that she still refers to their mom as her stepmother. She knows where Lee is and isn’t happy about it. Lee is at Kay’s psychiatrist Dr. Rossiger (Barrymore) who insists that the Addams family must revisit their past if they’re to have a future.
In flashback we learn that Lee as Leola Waring happened to be aboard the same ship as Larry Addams’s best friend and co-worker at the bank Chris Matthews (Pidgeon). By telegram he encourages his friend to get together with her hoping they’ll both have fun. When Chris calls Leola’s cabin he learns that she received a similar telegram from Larry so the two agree to meet and literally bump into each other in the bar while the ship rolls on a stormy sea. After three wonderful days together Chris wants to make plans to continue their relationship until he realizes that Leola isn’t interested. Evidently Larry had promised her that if she still wanted to be with him after a separation period (e.g. this trip to Europe & cruise) that he would marry her. Knowing that Larry is a widower who drinks and has two young children Chris asks Leola if she’s sure she is up to it and she assures him that she is.
Lee then tells Dr. Rossiger what transpired after she and Larry (Richard Derr) were married. One morning when she’d planned a picnic for the family that day she found Larry in his pajamas playing the piano and drinking. When she tried to encourage him to get dressed stop drinking and come out to the car to join her and the children he rebuffed her saying “don’t tell me what to do”. He also asked her who she loved him or the children and advised her to save most of her love for him. They kiss & “make up” and she agrees to tell his kids that he is sick but then young Penny (Ann Lace) rushes in. When Lee then tells Penny that “Daddy is sick and won’t be coming with us” Larry says he isn’t and of course he’ll come along on the picnic. Penny is therefore upset at Lee.
Lee then tells Dr. Rossiger of another time later when she’d found her husband playing the piano and nearly drunk. While she was “dressed to the nines” for a planned evening out he was not and was playing a duet with Penny instead. After Lee told Penny it was late and ushered her off to bed Larry told Lee he wasn’t going. She told him she was going to go anyway and would have a good time without him. Chris arrived to take them argued briefly Larry and then escorted Lee to the party. After they excused themselves from the gossiping ladies at the party Chris took Lee out for dancing and they had a great time until Lee realized what time it was. On their way home they passed an ambulance and upon checking it out learned that Larry had committed suicide by jumping off the cliff at Banning Point. We then learn that Larry had embezzled investors’ money causing the bank to be closed. Lee decides to tell the children only that their father had died of a heart attack. She then tells Chris that she must move away from the “farm” to the city so that she can get a job to repay the investors. When Chris tells her she’s just confused and that she shouldn’t run away Lee tells him that she fell in love with him on the cruise ship and essentially thinks it’s her fault that Larry killed himself. She makes Chris promise he won’t try to contact her ever again. Reluctantly he does and leaves.
Dr. Rossiger tells Lee that she must face her past and return to the farm for a summer vacation with the family. Later while she’s still pondering this Chase informs her that he wants to travel to Providence to see about a job. He tells her it’s with the Horton Shipbuilding Company which she knows is now run by Chris to see if it’s alright. Chase also asks if he can take Penny who he wants to introduce to a Navy buddy of his Brandon Reynolds (Marshall Thompson). Lee says that would be fine and Chase is able to convince Penny to go by reminding her that Chris was one of her father’s best friends. Of course Chris gives Chase the job and Brandon meets Penny who rebuffs his every advance. The three of them are invited to Chris’s for the evening where Penny “opens up” a bit to Chris who tells her of her father and learns of her similar talent on the piano. He also says that it was her grandfather’s idea that Larry be practical and work for the bank in lieu of pursuing his passion for music. When a storm frightens Penny Chris calls Lee whom he hasn’t spoken to in 10 years to ask if Chase & Penny could spend the night. She says yes and also confirms that her family will be coming to stay at the farm during the summer.
Lee hires the same housekeeper & cook Mrs. Stover (Elizabeth Patterson) from all those years ago. Kay also joins them for the summer and Brandon is a frequent guest. At this point things get a bit odd. Naturally Chris who is somehow still single after all these years even though he is rich attractive and seemingly without fault wants to get back together with the equally lonely Lee who for some unknown reason does not want the same. Then Penny instead of seeing him as a father figure begins an unhealthy attraction for Chris even falling in love with him. Her odd behavior continues and the film quickly becomes less interesting and more predictable.
Clinton Rosemond appears uncredited as Chris’s butler. And according to imdb.com Barbara Billingsley appears uncredited as a saleswoman in a lingerie store; the voices of Hume Cronyn & Audrey Trotter are uncredited used as guests at the dinner party; and Harry Hayden appears uncredited as the minister at the wedding.