Read Part One here.
In this article, we will be looking at the Fox Cinema Archive Manufacture on Demand titles; Claudia (1943), The Foxes of Harrow (1947), and My Wife’s Best Friend (1952). As with most MOD titles, the films were put on DVD using the best source material available. This means that no one went back through and restored the films, any imperfections that were on the films, are transferred to the DVD’s. For the most part, with these three movies, this did not cause too much of an issue as they all seemed to be sourced from pretty good material.
Claudia is a story of a newlywed couple living on a farm in Connecticut. Claudia Naughton, played by Dorothy McGuire, is a naive bride who must come to terms with the life she has chosen for herself. Having been married for less than a year to her husband David (Robert Young), she is bombarded with challenges that she may not be ready for, but will help her to grow up. The movie was adapted from a stage play by Rose Franken. It is obvious that Claudia was originally a stage play. The ways in which the scenes were filmed and blocked are indicative of what would happen on stage. Although, it was adapted for the screen, much of the play feel was kept in. This translates in a strange ambiance for the film. The set up to the characters and the subsequent actions that take place are done well, but the pacing is affected by the way it was adapted for the screen. This causes you to loose interest at times. Overall Claudia is a pleasant film, worth a watch, particularly if you like plays.
The Foxes of Harrow, starring Rex Harrison and Maureen O’Hara, is the story of a gambler who works his way into the highest tears of New Orleans society. Steven Fox (Harrison) comes from a poor upbringing in Ireland, although he is the natural son of a woman belonging to a wealthy family. He now lives in America, using his abilities to work the card table, in order to keep himself going. He finds himself in New Orleans and is introduced to Odelie ‘Lilly’ D’Arceneaux (O’Hara). Steven and Lilly must find a way to make a plantation work as well as their lives together. Adapted from the book by Frank Yerby, The Foxes of Harrow, brings a much told story to the forefront again. At times you feel as if you are watching, Gone with the Wind. At 118 minutes, it does not offer enough new material to separate itself from previous similar storylines. One thing that is exceptional in the film, is the acting. In particular the performance from Rex Harrison. Throughout the entire film, you are never sure if he is a decent guy or not, due to Harrison’s subtle ways in which he delivers the performance. This alone helps to make the film re-watchable.
My Wife’s Best Friend is the story of Virginia and George Mason. George (Macdonald Carey) confesses to Virginia that he had once been unfaithful. Virginia (Anne Baxter) finds the best way of dealing with this confession is to act out how she feels various famous women would have acted, such as Cleopatra or Joan of Arc. My Wife’s Best Friend is put forth as a comedy. While there are funny aspects of the film, the way in which Virginia’s character is written makes it hard to identify with her, causing some fo the comedy to be lost. It is hard to pinpoint whether this is due to the changes in society or if the character was not written in an identifiable way. The fact that she is upset after finding out about her husbands infidelity is not the issue, the issue is how she contradicts her own feelings many times throughout the film. This does not include when she changes her personalities to fit how she feels the historical woman would have acted. Luckily, the film is overall quite funny which makes up for the strange way in which Virginia’s character comes off.
These three titles from Fox Cinema Archives are strong in their own ways. Overall, The Foxes of Harrow is the strongest of the three thanks to the great acting, with Claudia not far behind. Be on the lookout for the next installment of the reviews of Fox Cinema Archives First Wave of manufacture on demand DVDs.