Claudia and David (1946) takes us four years later into the marriage of Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young, first paired in Claudia (1943) discussed here on Monday. It’s an unusually successful sequel, partly because of the consistent excellence of McGuire and Young in the roles, and partly because the story, with a host of new characters, stands on its own.
Just as with my post on Claudia, I’m going to throw out spoilers here and there like the Easter bunny scattering eggs. Proceed with caution.
And it has electricity now.
That, and their friendships with the opposite sex are the new challenges to their marriage.
We learn more about Young’s work as an architect. He plans to travel to a professional convention. McGuire doesn’t want him to go alone, and doesn’t want to go with him, either, and leave their son. She frets over every act of her husband’s independence. She mourns her lack of sophistication as they dress for a dinner party.
Claudia and David. Unfortunately , she doesn't have much to do except lend the cachet of her own splendid elegance.
saw here in Conflict (1946) as the severe wife of Humphrey Bogart is here the severe wife of John Sutton. Their marriage is a bit rocky as they are growing apart after the loss of their son. Miss Hobart obsesses over her child’s death, and tries to find consolation attempting to contact him through psychics.
The movie, in a gentle and smooth way, debunks the traditional Hollywood idea of a “happily-ever-after” in marriage. Here, all the married couples must work at their marriages if they want to keep them.
The dinner party scene is especially intriguing, because we have all the principle characters together, and the camera can pause on different groupings and individuals as we drift in and out of conversations. The characters we don’t know well are all neatly established for us in a few minutes.
Mary Astor had already started playing mothers of grown, more glamorous, children, and the dowager parts were coming soon. Just as with Gail Patrick, Claudia and David lets us see Miss Astor one more time as elegant and provactive. In her excellent memoir on her film career, Mary Astor - A Life on Film (NY: Delacorte Press, 1971, pp. 190-191), Mary Astor recounts her work in this film, with special emphasis on the consequences of the dinner party scene.
I enjoyed (Claudia and David)—I loved it—I wasn’t anybody’s mother and I looked lovely in beautiful clothes…
There was a big formal dinner…quite a long episode with a lot of dialogue. I think it was two or three days’ work. Table scenes are difficult, technically. People can’t be moved around, there are cross cuts, you are attached to the table. It’s a lighting and camera problem mainly, and takes time.
No lunch that day. Just, “I think I’ll like down during lunch hour.”
After three days of eating nothing but oysters and crackers, the body rebels…Dorothy and I had the longest scenes, the most close-ups—and in spite of frequent visits to the ladies’ room, we both looked rather pale and wan in the sequence that followed…
Just as in the first movie, Claudia’s challenge is become more emotionally mature. She deals, awkwardly if earnestly, with her jealousy over Mr. Young’s attentions to Mary Astor, and in turn, she must comfort Rose Hobart, who is jealous over McGuire’s relationship with John Sutton. Sutton, in a friendly though perhaps unwise gesture, sends Dorothy McGuire a dozen white roses.
Seeing Hobart’s faults in herself, McGuire is determined not to be jealous and tells Young, “Don’t let’s ever fight again.”
He replies, with his usual sense, “Well, that’s a tall order, but I’d rather have you fight back than be one of those noble women.” Regarding his friendship with Miss Astor, “Do you think marriage means the beginning and end of all human contact?”
McGuire’s mother, who died in Claudia is mentioned here on a few different occasions in a nice bit of continuity, and serves as a reminder to McGuire to not cling too tightly to those she loves.
The second potential tragedy happens during preparations for their own dinner party. As McGuire gets ready to dress, they get word that Young has been involved in an auto accident.
Later, after Robert Young has been transported to the hospital and they await a call, McGuire must endure the horror of a house full of guests. They are the same Hobart and Sutton, Gail Patrick and her husband, and Mary Astor, but now they are no longer strangers and wait out the long night together. They have all been through a trial by fire, in their own marriages and in their friendships with each other. Astor, aware she has inspired jealousy in McGuire, delicately helps her to dress. When Dorothy McGuire leaves the party to visit Young in the hospital, Rose Hobart, no longer jealous, magnanimously suggests to her husband that he drive her.
Claudia and David could have led to further adventures, but by this time Dorothy McGuire was eager to move beyond the scatterbrained wife roles. Finding challenging material to equal her prodigious talent would be a problem for the remainder of her career, more than just the common complaint of actors of being typecast. Hedda Hopper, syndicated in the Toledo Blade, August 7, 1946 wryly noted, “Dorothy McGuire got caught in her own web of excellence.”
Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Memories in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century. Her newspaper column on classic films, Silver Screen, Golden Memories is syndicated nationally.