Our Very Own (1950)
Four years before Jane Wyatt was to settle in as the perfect mother next to Robert Young’s title character in the TV series “Father Knows Best” she played an unbelievably understanding one in this drama produced by Samuel Goldwyn directed by David Miller and written by F. Hugh Herbert. The film received an Academy Award nomination for its Sound Recording.
Fred Macauley (Donald Cook) and his wife Lois (Wyatt) have three lovely daughters Gail (Ann Blyth) Joan (Joan Evans) and precocious little Penny (eleven year old Natalie Wood). They’re a happy middle class* family with a normal sibling rivalry between the oldest two daughters who are two years apart in age especially since the younger Joan has a crush on Gail’s TV installer boyfriend Chuck (Farley Granger) which causes her ignore Bert (Martin Milner) a boy her own age that has a crush on her. Shortly before her sister’s high school graduation during Gail’s eighteenth birthday party in their home Joan acts particularly badly by trying to move in on Chuck making her sister jealous and earning a scolding from their mother. But Joan has a secret earlier in the day she’d learned that Gail was adopted! So in her rage at being rebuked again in short succession by Gail (after her mother) Joan blurts out the “dirty little secret”.
Of course Gail’s parents had intended on sharing the fact of the adoption with her at an earlier age before they’d decided for various reasons to keep it a secret forever. Feeling betrayed and unsure of her identity Gail wants to meet her real (the word used in the movie) mother. Lois is extremely comforting and understanding assures Gail that what she feels is a perfectly natural reaction and then (through their lawyer who’d handled the adoption) arranges to meet with Gail’s birth (the correct word not used in the movie) mother herself first. Gail’s natural father died in an accident before she was born and as it turns out her “real” mother Gert Lynch (Ann Dvorak) literally lives on the other side of the tracks in a working class bungalow. Lois and Gert have a nice meeting but since her husband Jim Lynch (appearing later and played by Ray Teal) doesn’t know anything about what happened eighteen years ago it’s arranged for Gail to meet Gert on Jim’s bowling night. Unfortunately Jim brings everyone home to play cards that night instead and Gail doesn’t get to have the idyllic reunion she must have imagined. In fact she leaves feeling so bad that she asks Zaza (Phyllis Kirk) the friend that had driven her if she could go to her home.
Fortunately confused Gail has two good friends in Chuck who’s practically her fiancé and Zaza the neglected daughter of a wealthy father who’s had multiple wives (since Zaza’s mother died during childbirth). Through them and an attention getting slap on the face from father Fred Gail comes to realize who her real parents really are. As vice president of her graduating class Gail gives a speech that indicates she’s learned this fact; afterwards she rushes to reunite and embrace her family including Joan who’s suddenly acting her age and wants to be with Bert. The last scene features Gail walking arm in arm with Chuck figuratively into the sunset.
* Perhaps the Macauleys are upper middle class; after all they do have a maid (Jessica Grayson) and (at the beginning of the film) just had a TV installed (by Granger’s character and one played by Gus Schilling a grumpy nervous sort who’s pestered relentlessly by Miss Wood’s character).