#101 Dodsworth (1936)

In the films we’ve seen so far, we’re used to seeing all lovely couples ride off into the sunset together or to be apart only in death. It was not natural for a couple to split up by choice. That is why it is important to see this next film on the list for taking a chance at raising a social issue to the reality that comes with marriage. Dodsworth is when a automobile millionaire and his wife who wants youthful excitement in her life drift apart after a cruise to Europe.

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We see two people who may have been right for each other at the time when they were married but as time went on, their feelings on their life and of each other change. Sam Dodsworth prefers to live the simple yet unsophisticated life of a big businessman whereas Fran wants a life of adventure and to not be surrounded by people who remind her of her age. Fran meets many young suitors on the trip and Sam meets Edith who makes Sam happier than he’s ever been. Their relationship is like a clutch for the both of them but a sense of duty and promise is the only thing that keeps them together. This film was considered pretty controversial for this subject matter as this was one of the first films to show a marriage break apart and for the man not to get punished for leaving his wife. I loved how the ending reminds me so much of Gone With the Wind without actually saying “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

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To say that art is an imitation of life definitely applies to this film. Mary Astor, who played Edith, was involved in a public scandal in which her husband showed her diary to the media to prove that she was having an affair. She even felt the need to sleep on the set to get away from the press! That’s crazy! I don’t get how mad you are at someone. It’s never right to air someone’s dirty laundry. Here’s another fun fact that doesn’t make sense to me in which Ruth Chatterton wished her character of Fran was all evil whereas Director William Wyler wanted to show a more complex side of Fran where audiences could sympathize with her. Were you able to sympathize with Fran?

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In my opinion, I feel like that point did not come across very well. I was able to sympathize more with Sam than Fran in which they portrayed Fran as shallow and looking to get out of this marriage so she could be with younger guys whereas Sam wanted to be with a woman who made him feel good. Instead of making the ending be a mutual breakup, only one got burned more which I wish could have been handled differently. Turns out that Ruth Chatterton had her own securities about her age just like Fran. Apparently, she was a real monster on set with Wyler where she took out her frustrations on him. Well, at least dealing with their own demons was a great tool in dealing with their character’s demons.

Unfortunately, I could not finding Dodsworth online but you can buy the DVD on Amazon. Here is a clip from the movie that dared to show divorce on the silver screen and comment on what you think:

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