Jan 25, 2008

Awesomes in the Dust

Of all the lovely stars comprising the classic film constellation, brassy-haired Brit Greer Garson was among my least favorite ladies. The basis for my criticsim was as ridiculous as it was lacking reason: I had never seen a film of hers (but then again, I told myself, I didn't want to), I knew very little about her, and she had never offended me in any particular way, but still, disdain remained. There was so little sense to my dislike - now but a memory, to be sure - and it becomes even more of an oddity to consider now that I am officially in love with Greer, courtesy her heartbreaking 1941 film Blossoms in the Dust.

Crafted by seldom-credited screenwriter Anita Loos and finessed by the touch of deft-handed director Mervin LeRoy, Blossoms unfolds the story of turn-of-the-century children's rights activist Edna Gladney, who, through her rejection of then-contemporary convention and her obstinance towards the legal system of the day, significantly changed the process of child adoption to a more humane and loving procedure. And Blossoms is everything one would expect of an MGM biopic from cinema's golden age: love and heartbreak, triumph and tragedy, and a testament to a tenacious and intrepid life, all tinted in emotion-intensifying Technicolor. Gladney is gladly depicted as the heroine she was and, truthfully, still is: the testy Texas woman rallied in defense of abandoned children whose parentage was questioned and who were stigmatized with the legal branding of illegitimacy, a term whose assignment wreaked grave social implications as they grew up to seek jobs, get married, or even join 'respectable society'. The real-life activist opened her home to hundreds of children through her revolutionary day-care facility, which she also financed, never envisioning her impact on the social issues tied to pregnancy, parenthood and adoption.

As much a star as Gladney, though, is the woman who brings her to life in the film even today. Tough yet delicate and never histrionic, Garson presents the balanced and trailblazing woman Gladney likely was - feminine yet defiant, steadfast yet nurturing, a pioneer who saw her work as the good fight it was.

I wave my white flag proudly, Miss G, in deference to your awesome acting acuity. I will never speak ill of you again!

An unlicensed version of Blossoms in the Dust is available on dvd through Free Movies on Dvd.

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