DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

GUEST IN THE HOUSE (director: John Brahm; screenwriters: Ketti Frings/from the play by Hagar Wilde & Dale Eunson; cinematographer: Lee Garmes; editors:  James Newcom/Walter Hanneman; music:  Werner Janssen; cast: Anne Baxter (Evelyn Heath), Ralph Bellamy (Douglas Proctor), Ruth Warwick (Ann Proctor), Connie Laird (Lee Proctor), Aline MacMahon (Aunt Martha), Scott McKay (Dr. Dan Proctor), Marie McDonald (Miriam Blake), Percy Kilbride (John), Margaret Hamilton (Hilda), Jerome Cowan (Ernest Hackett); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hunt Stromberg; Alpha Home Video (United Artists);1944)

"How things get resolved is for the birds."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John Brahm ("The Lodger"/"The Locket"/"Wintertime") directs this unsatisfactory, ponderous and illogical theatrical melodrama, as a guarded lesson on hysterical behavior and how the seeds of dissension can be sown when a family acts dysfunctional. It has no sizzle, nor is it convincing. Writer Ketti Frings bases it on the play by Hagar Wilde & Dale Eunson.

Aunt Martha (Aline MacMahon) gets things stirred up in the opening scene by telling us this "is a str-r-range story that I am going to tell—." She then tells about what happened when Dr. Dan Proctor (Scott McKay) invites for the summer his frail patient and invalid fiancée, Evelyn Heath (Anne Baxter), as a guest in his ancestral Maine home, hoping she will recuperate in the country surrounding. Evelyn meets the family, which includes Dan's commercial illustrator middle-aged older brother, Dr. Douglas Proctor (Ralph Bellamy). He's married to Ann (Ruth Warwick) and has a young daughter Lee (Connie Laird). Both show sympathy to their unlikable guest when learning of her difficult childhood. But the neurotic manipulative Evelyn, who suffered abuse from her alcoholic father and as a result is psychologically scarred, torments the family with her nonsense. Also in residence are two other house-guests, Ernest Hackett (Jerome Cowan) and Doug's model Miriam (Marie McDonald).

When Lee's caged pet bird is loose, Evelyn's fear of birds makes her shriek. Doug calms her by sketching her portrait on a lampshade. Evelyn suddenly falls for Doug and no longer favors Dan. To get her man Evelyn poisons the minds of everyone in the household and especially the maid, Hilda (Margaret Hamilton), Lee and Doug's wife by falsely saying Doug and Miriam are having an affair.

How things get resolved is for the birds.

REVIEWED ON 9/27/2014       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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