Sunday, December 27, 2009

Apartment for Peggy

Apartment for Peggy (1948) is a comedy directed by George Seaton. The film stars William Holden, Jeanne Crain, and Edmund Gwenn.

Professor Henry Barnes (Edmund Gwenn), a widower who has been retired from a Midwestern university for many years, decides he's lived long enough and contemplates suicide.

Professor Barnes telephones his close friend and fellow chamber music performer, law professor Edward Bell (Gene Lockhart), and asks him for help preparing his will as he intends to commit suicide.

Bell rushes over and tells Barnes all the reasons why he should not take his own life, however Barnes continues to feel he no longer is of any use to society. When Bell relates this to his colleagues and fellow chamber music players, they are horrified.

One of them, Philip Conway (Griff Barnett), a medical doctor, arranges to examine Barnes and finds him in excellent health and not depressed or bitter.

Barnes tells Conway that he had a wonderful marriage and, although their son was lost in the war, has had a full and satisfying life. Barnes claims that he has not been sleeping well and asks Conway for sleeping pills, but the doctor gives him only two.

Later, while Barnes is feeding pigeons in the park, young Peggy Taylor (Jeanne Crain)sits down on the bench beside him. She tells him that she and Jason (William Holden), her husband who is studying chemistry on the G.I. Bill, have been looking for an apartment and are expecting a baby. Barnes offers to mention their predicament to Bell, who is also the university housing administrator.

After a philosophical conversation with Peggy about the pros and cons of suicide, Barnes ponders whether he is really "living now." But Barnes plans to still commit suicide when his book is finished.

Bell discovers that during the war two soldiers were temporarily billeted in Henry's attic, the determined Peggy goes to Barnes's house and talks him into letting her and Jason move into his attic. But Bell also has alterior motives, wondering if the young couple may help Barnes change his mind.

The couple causes some havoc in Barnes's life, blowing fuses, interfering with his writing, bringing a cat into the house, and adopting a dog, and Barnes finds himself calling Dr. Conway for more sleeping pills. However, we learn that Barnes is not taking the sleeping pills but is storing them for later.

Peggy and Jason invite Barnes to see what they have done to the attic, and he is amazed by the transformation. Over a cup of tea, Jason tells Henry he wants to be a teacher. Later, Peggy tells Barnes him about the riff in education between G.I. husbands and wives. Peggy maintains that the wives need overview classes so that they can help their husbands and talk to their husbands about their studies, and has suggested to the university that Barnes organize such courses.

He protests, saying he wants to finish his book but, a few days later, finds himself in a converted pool hall in front of a large group of students' wives presenting a lecture on the basics of philosophy. The class is very successful, and Henry takes a new lease on life.

Meanwhile Jason is fed up with not earning enough money to properly support him and his wife. He tells his chemistry professor (played by the delightful Charles Lane)that he is quitting school and getting a job as a cars salesman. As Jason is telling his chemistry professor that he is going to have to leave school, he is summoned to the the hospital and learns that Peggy has given birth prematurely and the baby has died.

Jason, depressed over the loss of their child, goes to Chicago to sell cars with his old war buddy.

Later, when Barnes visits Peggy in the hospital, he finds her in good spirits and tells her that a life wasn't lost, but merely exchanged, as she has saved him from suicide.

Barnes goes to see Jason at the used car lot and informs him that he can be reinstated and given a job as a teaching assistant, but Jason feels that a teaching job will not be enough for him. Barnes has arranged for Jason to take make up exams.

Back home, Barnes discovers that Peggy plans to go to live with her sister. Unknown to Barnes and Peggy, Jason has returned to take the make-up exams and, with the help of Barnes's colleagues, passes all his exams.

After Barnes grows very despondent because Peggy and Jason are apart, and downs several of the doctor's sleeping pills, Peggy tells his friends that he has taken a a lot of sleeping pills. The doctor, however, informs them that what he prescribed were not sleeping pills but pills that will merely make him slightly uncomfortable. However, Peggy and Jason are unaware that they were not sleeping pills that Barnes took

Meanwhile, Peggy is walking Henry back and forth and filling him full of coffee when Jason comes home. Barnes explains that he took the pills because they are leaving him. Jason challenges Barnes to pull himself together by saying that he can think of many fellows, including Barnes's son, who would like to have had the choice he has now. Moved by Jason's words, Barnes gets up and starts walking on his own.

Later, Barnes changes the living arrangements in the house to give the couple more space. The chamber music group is performing once again in Barnes's parlor when Peggy and Jason announce that they are going to try to have another baby.

Jeanne Crain and Edmund Gwenn are wonderful in this film. The two have many wonderful scences together. Jeanne Crain's snappy, slang laden talk and her optimistic out look on life in contrast to Edmund Gwenn's resigned philosophic ways is delightful.

One interesting thing about this film, is the discussions between the various characters about education and the government and all the things wrong and that need to be changed. Although the film takes place in the 1940s, those discussion are the exact same ones we are having today.

Another interesting point is the discussions among the older professors about the youth today and the generation gap, sixty years later, the same discussions occur.

This light, funny film about life and death has a certain charm. Had it been cast differently, it may well have failed, because the movie relies heavily on the charm of the characters.

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