If you haven’t seen it:
The Enchanted Cottage is a forgotten gem that is not easy to find on DVD and is rarely shown on TV. It is worth tracking down though. It is the sort of movie that could easily become your new favourite.
It tells the story of a scarred World War II veteran and a “homely” maid, who share a cottage, and fall in love. It seems beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or is, as they believe, the cottage enchanted?
It is a sweet and charming movie. Pay no attention to the poster on the left, it is not about scandal or passion, it is about love. I can only assume that the person who made the poster had not seen the film.
If you have seen it:
Scroll down past the trailer for more.
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SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.
The Enchanted Cottage tells the love story of Oliver and Laura. However, Oliver is actually engaged to another woman, Beatrice, when he first meets Laura. The engaged couple have just rented a cottage for their honeymoon, and Laura arrives there looking for a job as a maid. We hear that the cottage is “enchanted” and makes its inhabitants fall in love. Previous inhabitants have carved their names on the window, but when Oliver tries to carve “Oliver and Beatrice” on the window with his ring, the ring breaks.
A few days later, war breaks out, Oliver receives orders, and the wedding is postponed. Laura stays at the cottage during the war. At a local dance one evening, she is humiliated when none of the visiting soldiers want to dance with her because she is so “homely”.
Eventually, Oliver returns to the cottage, and we discover he has received disfiguring facial injuries. When Beatrice first lays eyes on him, she recoils in horror. Even though she tries to apologise, and begs forgiveness, Oliver breaks off the engagement. He decides he wants to live as a recluse in the cottage.
Gradually though, he comes to terms with his condition. He makes friends with neighbour John, a blind composer, and he develops a friendship with Laura. Before long, they are married. At first it is a marriage of convenience, but after a while they genuinely fall in love, and they put it down to the magic of the enchanted cottage.
One day, John receives a note from them asking them to visit, as “something extraordinary” has happened. Oliver and Laura explain to him that somehow the cottage has changed them – Oliver’s scars have gone, and Laura is now beautiful. Despite not being able to see them, John suspects the truth – that no transformation has really taken place, and they just look beautiful to each other because they are in love. However, he plays along with them. When the couple try to convince Oliver’s mother though, she tells them the truth. Oliver and Laura are upset at the realization they have been deceiving themselves, but they recover, and at the end of the movie, appear to be happy, and still in love.
Steve Sunday Says:
The Enchanted Cottage is a lovely movie. When I first watched it though, I did have one minor complaint…well, quite a major complaint actually…well, in fact, it was a complaint about the concept the whole movie is based upon. My complaint was this – homely Laura and disfigured Oliver are not desperately unattractive!
Yes, it is true that Laura’s eyebrows are a bit bushy, and her hair looks as though it was styled by blind John, but was she really not good enough for a sex-starved GI to dance with? I doubt it. And as for Oliver’s “disfigurement”, I have seen far worse. Half way through watching the movie I said to Mrs Sunday that I wished the movie makers had had a bit more courage and had Laura look like Nanny McPhee and Oliver look like Two-Face from Batman, perhaps with bits of pottery stuck to his face.
Upon reflection though, I think the movie is not really about whether or not Laura and Oliver are ugly, it is about the fact that when they are out in public they feel ugly. When they are in each others’ company though, they feel better about themselves, and they act with more confidence, and feel better about themselves and each other.
I guess most of us have felt like outsiders at some point in our lives, and perhaps that is the reason so many people find this movie still resonates today.
Trivia Trish Says:
- The film is an adaptation of a 1923 play by Arthur Wing Pinero.
- There was also a silent movie of The Enchanted Cottage made in 1924.
- Robert Young loved the film so much that he named his own California home The Enchanted Cottage
- The film makers achieved Laura’s “homeliness” using make-up, ill-fitting clothes, and a drab hairstyle. They also used lighting. In the scenes where Laura is supposed to be ugly, she is lit from below; in the scenes where she is supposed to be beautiful, she is lit from above, which is more flattering.
Main Cast and Crew:
Dorothy McGuire… Laura Pennington
Robert Young…Oliver Bradford
Herbert Marshall…Major John Hillgrove
Mildred Natwick…Mrs. Abigail Minnett
Spring Byington…Violet Price
Hillary Brooke…Beatrice Alexander
Director: John Cromwell
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