Wednesday, August 3, 2016

To Each His Own

"The most mysterious mysteries are people, and usually people who don't seem mysterious at all." So opens Mitchell Leisen's To Each His Own. It's a story of  a woman who tries to escape her past indiscretion but has it gnawing away at her for years.

The woman in question is Jody Norris, played in top tier form by Olivia de Havilland. Bear in mind that To Each His Own was made following the legal woes de Havilland faced with Warner Bros. and the contract she was under with them. After two years of not working, she signed on to this film.

And it's her work in To Each His Own was her defiantly telling off Jack L. Warner for giving her nothing but ingénue roles for years. In Leisen's hands (whom de Havilland specifically chose to direct this), she tackles the role with utter aplomb. (It doesn't take much to see how she got her first of two Oscars for this.)

As she would do in her later performances like The Snake Pit and The Heiress, de Havilland shows how layered a character Jody is. When we first see her, she's a bitter middle-aged woman and through flashbacks we see what made her jaded and broken.

To Each His Own is a heartbreaking piece of filmmaking. In anyone else's hands, Charles Brackett's script could've turned into an overwrought melodrama reminiscent of Douglas Sirk's films the following decade. But thanks to Leisen and de Havilland, that is far from the case.

My Rating: ****1/2

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