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H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941) HD online

H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941) HD online
Language: English
Category: Movie / Drama / Romance
Original Title: H.M. Pulham, Esq.
Director: King Vidor
Writers: John P. Marquand,Elizabeth Hill
Released: 1941
Duration: 2h
Video type: Movie
Fortysomething, blue blooded Boston born and bred, Harvard educated businessman Harry Pulham leads a regimented, routinized life with his wife, the former Kay Motford, who he's known since childhood. Harry outwardly believes he is all the more happy because of the way his life is, which was somewhat predetermined as part of his upbringing. This day, he receives two telephone calls which make him examine his life. The first is from Bo-Jo Brown, a Harvard colleague who is heading a twenty-five year reunion committee, with Harry foisted into the job of writing attendee biographies, which is to include his own. The second is from Marvin Myles, a former work colleague from his time over twenty years ago at the J.T. Bullard Advertising Agency in New York City, that job which Harry got from his more liberally minded Harvard friend Bill King. The result of these two telephone calls makes Harry wonder if he is happy, if he is or ever was in love with Kay, and if he never was if he would have ...
Complete credited cast:
Hedy Lamarr Hedy Lamarr - Marvin Myles
Robert Young Robert Young - Harry Pulham
Ruth Hussey Ruth Hussey - Kay Motford
Charles Coburn Charles Coburn - Mr. Pulham Sr.
Van Heflin Van Heflin - Bill King
Fay Holden Fay Holden - Mrs. John Pulham
Bonita Granville Bonita Granville - Mary Pulham
Douglas Wood Douglas Wood - Mr. Bullard
Charles Halton Charles Halton - Walter Kaufman
Leif Erickson Leif Erickson - Rodney 'Bo-Jo' Brown (as Leif Erikson)
Phil Brown Phil Brown - Joe Bingham
David Clyde David Clyde - Hugh the Butler
Sara Haden Sara Haden - Miss Rollo

Favorite film of Hedy Lamarr.

"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on July 13, 1942 with Hedy Lamarr and Robert Young reprising their film roles.

This film had its first television showing in Los Angeles Friday 7 December 1956 on KTTV (Channel 11); in Seattle it first aired 9 February 1957 on KING (Channel 5), in Chicago 17 February 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), in Minneapolis 14 March 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9), in Philadelphia 10 July 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), and in Altoona PA 7 August 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), but it was not telecast in New York City until 21 June 1958 on WCBS (Channel 2), and in San Francisco 2 March 1959 on KGO (Channel 7).



Reviews: [25]

  • avatar

    Jwalextell

    What a remarkable movie! It contains, as far as I've seen her, Hedy Lamarr's best performance ever...she's luminous here, human, warm, heart-wrenching, not the aloof goddess of other MGM films (which I like too, by the way). She gives a complex, multi-layered performance as a liberal, independent, unprejudiced, modern working woman who falls in love with a lad (grandly impersonated by Robert Young) who comes from an aristocratic, old fashioned, "blue-blood" family from Boston.

    They meet while working together in an advertising/publicity company, but their relationship is not an easy one, due to Marvin's (Hedy) unease with his family's morals, mores and ways...

    The movie is told in flashback, with Harry Pulham (Robert Young) remembering his childhood and younger days, when he's well into his forties and married to a woman of his same "Social Circle" (Ruth Hussey-what a good actress she was, giving a first-rate performance in a role so different from the one she played the previous year in "The Philadelphia Story").

    You can tell this movie was directed by a first rate director like King Vidor, who could handle so well "sociological" issues.

    Good performances too by Van Heflin as Young's pal, Bonita Granville as his sister, Charles Coburn as his father et al.

    An engrossing film, watch it on TCM, where it's scheduled regularly.
  • avatar

    Acebiolane

    This muted but affecting version of John P. Marquand's stinging reproach of the turn of the last century's hidebound upper classes, this beautiful MGM production is easily Hedy Lamarr's finest performance. Co-starring the too frequently overlooked Robert Young and the multifaceted Van Heflin (who would win a Best Supporting Oscar that year for Johnny Eager), the film also boasts the usual MGM powerful supporting cast (including Charles Coburn, Ruth Hussy, Bonita Granville and a cameo by the great Anne Revere). Under King Vidor's perceptive direction, this tale of a man's reflection of a life full of stifling tradition becomes a poignant, subtle exploration of lost opportunity. At last given a role of substance, Lamarr is wonderful as an educated working class woman with aspirations, who must watch the man she loves cave in to the expectations of wealth and tradition. A gem of a film; discover it for yourselves.
  • avatar

    Enditaling

    Previous comments referred to the slow pace of the story, in a way I agree, but we're talking about a different time in the cinema. It was a pleasure to see how the characters were formed and could only attest to the direction of King Vidor. Hedy in her role as a career woman, had the full understanding of the character. Her outstanding beauty ( even in a masculine business suit) are not to be denied. Some people have said she was not a great actress, and indeed she wasn't, but certainly a competent one, and she proved here, given the right roles. As for Robert Young, I thought he was also excellent in the main role, as were all the others. Kudos to all of them for an enjoyable two hours.
  • avatar

    Shistus

    Right from the beginning, one might mistake this film for a comedy. In fact, the artistic opening sequences make H. M. Pulham (Robert Young) out to be a rather eccentric man. But as the film goes on, we learn that his is a complex and likable man with a life relateable to anyone at anytime. He is notified of a Harvard class reunion and for the event, he must write a personal biography. Writing it turns out to be difficult, and we journey through memories in search of the ones to include.

    As a young boy, Pulham was brought up in a highly educated and somewhat rigid environment. His mother (Fay Holden), father (Charles Coburn), and sister (Bonita Granville) loved him and accepted his friends willingly, especially Bill King (Van Heflin). They even arranged for a girl to be nearby at all times (Ruth Hussey); he even eventually married her. However, the one aspect of his life that was not planned was his love affair with an advertiser named Marvin (Hedy Lamarr). Thinking about her brings back all of the passion they had for each other, and he begins to wonder why they never ended up together when they were in love.

    This movie is sentimental and entertaining. Each of the actors is excellent in his part, especially Lamarr who exercises a new part of her personality. In most of her films, she plays a seductive and somewhat distant woman. Here, she is warm and inviting, much more like an ideal wife and mother. One could easily imagine her sitting by the fire mending socks or cooking over a hot stove and all the while remaining radiantly beautiful.
  • avatar

    fire dancer

    This film produced in 1941 contains a surprisingly modern story line of a career girl - Marvin Myles Ransome, played by Hedy Lamarr from a poor immigrant background, who works at an advertising agency in New York and there has a romance with Robert Young, playing a rich Boston heir - Harry Moulton Pulham who makes a hit with his boss on a soap campaign for a client. Harry's parents and family don't want him to work at the agency however.They want him to come back to Boston,join the family firm and marry a "nice" girl of their own choosing.What is intriguing is that for 1941 this film, directed and written by acclaimed director King Vidor, has a surprisingly modern theme.Hedy puts her career first before marriage because she realises, after visiting Harry's family home, that the stuffy atmosphere there with its restrictive ideas of what young ladies can and cannot do, would not be conducive to her long term personal happiness.Quite a mature decision considering that Harry comes from a rich family.

    They both then go their separate, reluctant, ways and are married to different partners for 20 years or so.Marvin contacts Harry after this time because we suspect they are still in love.After a later meeting in Marvins luxury New York flat at her instigation, they are obviously still very fond of each other.Harry kisses Marvin on the lips to prove his affection.

    We know of course that the morality code operating in films at the time could not condone an affair and that marriage - the status quo - must in the end triumph.Even here there is for the time an unusual twist.After quizzing his wife, Codelia, played by Ruth Hussey over the breakfast table whether they are truly happy and still in love, she changes her mind about her inability to leave her social engagements and surprises her husband at work as she has been thinking about what he said about taking off into the hills just the two of them and without their own family; to re-ignite their marriage.

    I found it surprisingly modern in its theme as I suspect royal marriages without love are still happening today!In 2013 I wrote a general amendment to this and other user comments which also applies to those actresses whose films I have already commented on IMDb.com in recent years.My love goddess/film actresses are Margaret Lockwood, Jennifer Jones, Vivien Leigh, Hedy Lamarr & Ava Gardner.Perhaps you will notice they were all dark brunette 1940s (& 50s) stars.It occurred to me that there should be one defining film which perfectly encapsulates for me their intrinsic personality, talent glamour & intellect.These are my choices after years of deliberation: Margaret Lockwood - "The Wicked Lady" (1945), Jennifer Jones - "Portrait Of Jennie" (1948), Vivien Leigh - "That Hamilton Woman" (1941), Hedy Lamarr - H.M.Pulman esq (1941), Ava Gardner "One Touch of Venus" (1948).
  • avatar

    Dead Samurai

    Hedy Lamarr and Robert Young are well-paired in this movie. She plays the mature independent woman. He plays the good-natured homespun man. The movie is slow and touching, in the genre of movies where modern life conflicts with old and established life. I was reminded of "The Magnificent Ambersons." I agree that this was one of Hedy's best performances, and interestingly another in which her character has a male name (perhaps to balance her beguiling femininity.) In this and a few other movies, her face conveys a variety of emotions, often breaking the placidity of her porcelain beauty. Robert sets the tone of this movie. It would have been very different if another actor had been cast. He was an excellent choice for this role. Passion and prudence clash in this story, and as was often the case in Hays' Hollywood, the result is bittersweet. One of my favorite lines is when Marvin says to Harry on the sled, "Now don't be like Ethan Frome. I want to live."
  • avatar

    Macill

    This movie is very thought provoking about how life is or how it could have been. It helped me appreciate life, the good and the bad, most of everyday life is actually quite good especially when we don't dwell on the could haves. It was very nostalgic for me. I especially liked the spontaneity as thats something we like to do as a couple, but we don't see a lot of it these days. The idea of taking a chance was a little scary for me. The romance was soft and touching, very clean. It actually gave me some ideas on how to be more romantic. It was a kick seeing Van Heflin so young and skinny. The movie really was a fantasy, but so close to the truth that it just grabbed me. Being older, the film quality was worn, some of the pan scenes were distorted. That Robert Young smile is contagious, thats how I'll remember this movie in my mind's eye.
  • avatar

    LeXXXuS

    Though dealing primarily with an upper-class character, this picture involves decisions and emotional conflicts that everyone can relate to. The bittersweet story reminds us that to a greater or lesser extent we all settle for something less than the life we dreamed of. On the surface, the characters here are happy: they say they are, and they mean it. But beneath that surface are disappointment and longing that they keenly feel when the past is recalled. Better not to think about it, and just go on with the life you have.

    Hedy Lamarr was a curious choice for this role. It doesn't really suit her, but she handles it better than one might expect.
  • avatar

    Arakus

    H.M. Pulham, Esq. comes from a novel by John P. Marquand, the same man who wrote The Late George Apley. This man definitely knew his Boston and apparently was of the opinion that it was indeed the most civilized place on the globe or at least in the Western Hemisphere.

    The title character is played by Robert Young whom we meet on the eve of World War II a seemingly content and successful businessman who gets a pair of calls that set him thinking about his life. The first is from a former Harvard classmate Leif Erickson who is organizing a class reunion. The second is from a woman whom he had a fling with back in the day before he married Ruth Hussey. That would be the drop dead gorgeous Hedy Lamarr.

    This sets Young to thinking about what might have been and we got back to the days before, during, and after World War I when Young was much younger and unattached. After service in the Great War as they called it back then, he's decided that there is more to the world than the confines of Back Bay Boston. He decides to go to work for an advertising agency in New York. It's there that he meets Lamarr.

    Hedy's a free spirit, not at all like the girls back home like Ruth Hussey. She's in fact being courted by Van Heflin who is another of Young's Harvard crowd and who's a odd fish in that crowd as well. The mores of Beacon Hill are just not Hedy's style and Young has to face that.

    The film version of The Late George Apley ends before World War I and that was an event that impacted nearly all on the globe, one way or another. The Pulhams were probably just like the Apleys before the war. In fact Marquand had George Apley describing a youthful indiscretion with an Irish girl, definitely not of their crowd. If you know what happened there, you know how H.M. Pulham, Esq. resolved things and answered his own questions.

    Even in Boston there's such a thing as a midlife crisis which is what Young is going through. H.M. Pulham, Esq. is a really cute film with a gorgeous Hedy Lamarr and a stalwart Robert Young. Leif Erickson got one of his best parts in film as the overage college jock whose high point in life was playing football for Harvard. Phil Brown is also good as Young's friend from childhood who went to Harvard with him, but is very clueless about anything that's not got the Boston seal of approval.

    H.M. Pulham, Esq. ought to be seen back to back with The Late George Apley, it's like watching Apley in a different generation in many respects.
  • avatar

    Beanisend

    Hedy Lamarr gave a good performance here. No over-acting, but subtle and with a contemporary feel. This was a difficult role. Marvin Myles, without having the bitch on wheels histrionics of Bette Davis or Joan Crawford, was a beautiful and independent woman, who not only survived but actually thrived in a 'man's world'. This was a performance was balanced and sensitive. I think if George Cukor or William Wyler had handles the directorial reigns here, the results would could have made this a memorable films. As it is, it good. One has to remember that in 1941, this is still a period piece, and if one looks deep enough, there's a lot here that's worthwhile. Too bad that modern audiences seem to rely on non-stop action, and don't seem to have the attention span that this kind of movie requires. It's a pity than at least half a Valium is required to enjoy the warmth that is presented here.
  • avatar

    Fecage

    Robert Young and Hedy Lamarr are great together in this period piece about a young man bound by his society upbringing and the exciting modern woman who breaks all the molds he has carefully preserved. The dynamic between the pull of family obligation and the inner longing to be free in Young is wonderfully portrayed.
  • avatar

    Rko

    King Vidor is to be congratulated for the deft handling of a subtle theme which begins with the opening sequence of H.M. PULHAM, ESQ. In a series of quick cuts he shows us how well organized and fastidious ROBERT YOUNG has become, frozen in time as the aristocratic lawyer leading a well organized life of utter boredom. This theme is developed in a story that encompasses frequent flashbacks evolving into what made him arrive at his current wistful situation.

    ROBERT YOUNG is an extremely underrated actor. He performs the central role with a thorough understanding of his character and gains my full respect for a thoughtful, detailed performance. He's always such a likable screen personality and he's well matched with lovely HEDY LAMARR, who comes to life in a kind of role that rarely came her way--that of a normal working woman who keeps a tender spot in her heart for the man she almost marries. Of course, her face and figure made her ideal for playing the kind of seductress the studio made her play in most of her other films.

    RUTH HUSSEY too, is effectively used as Young's wife who goes through the motions of a marriage that never really seems to be completely satisfying, no matter how much both of them try. CHARLES COBURN, VAN HEFLIN and BONITA GRANVILLE are fine in lesser roles but the film is really carried by the chemistry between Young and Lamarr.

    The slow pacing will be too much for modern audiences since the film has a running time of two hours. Some careful editing could have removed at least a half-hour from the story without harming it. Lamarr doesn't enter fully into the picture until at least forty minutes or so, which is a shame because she's certainly seen to good advantage once her relationship with Young starts.

    Photographed in crisp B&W with sumptuous sets and the usual MGM elegance, it's pleasant to look at. The main ingredient missing is a strong script with a little more conflict than the screenwriter presented. But there is nothing lacking in the performances--the cast is uniformly excellent with one exception. Much as I usually like LEIF ERICKSON, he overdoes the role of an ex-football star buddy of Young, overplaying the role to such an extent that his acting seems more suitable for a screwball comedy than a serious drama.
  • avatar

    Hellblade

    Both Robert Young and Hedi Lamarr give performances noticeable for their timing and naturalness. Lamarr, who is basically miscast in her role, really shines as an actress. Young is charming and winsome, and holds the film despite Lamarr's beauty. There is also a brief appearance by the very young Ava Gardner in an uncredited walk-on.
  • avatar

    Daron

    I watched this movie on TCM for one reason only, it was made in 1941 and from the few movies I've seen from that year, I feel, that's a good year in movies. And this movie didn't degrade that premise from my mind.

    Robert Young's character H.M. Pulham, mainly in the flashback era of the film, I felt was sort of a laidback William Powell. I felt, and not just because he was the main character of the film, but, I felt, without Robert Young as H.M. Pulham, this movie would have been less. He gave the character a conservative attitude about things with a slight pinch of the opposite.

    The film did venture on for awhile, but, in a way, I felt it sort of added to it a bit. I was thinking just of that, near the end of the film, and I believe if the Director: King Vidor, edited down the movie, it would have actually made it less of what it was.

    The 2 hours was sufficient for the story.

    I found this movie to be flirtacious, but, not in the since of sex, though that would apply to this movie, but, more of the attitude of the meaning behind the word. I also found it to be coy in a way.

    I found Hedy Lamarr's character Marvin Ransome to be straightforward yet cautious as well.

    It was -- well, I can't say it was sad, though it was, but, I also can't say it was happy either.

    It sort of rests in between.

    There are 3 stories I feel in this movie, but most probably only see the one. This is a movie worth watching more than once, and I recommend it to anyone.

    But, realize, it's an acquired taste.

    I do like this version, I do not know if they have made another version, doubtful, but, you never know. And I feel, if a version of this was made today and keeping the same vigor and attitude of this version, I feel it would bode well. Though, I am sure, in this case, it would also be an acquired taste, too.

    I give this an 8/10 and I am sure at the time, it was quite a controversial film that as well broke laws from the 'attitude' I state above, of the film.

    :)
  • avatar

    Brol

    Robert Young plays a man who comes from the cream of Boston society. His life is very organized and proper--yet there is a short period of his life where he is able to be his own person. After graduating from Harvard (naturally), he does a brief stint with a company in New York--where he comes in contact with normal folks and Young is just a normal guy. In the process, he meets lovely Hedy Lamar--a very bright and capable working woman. While she is intellectually his equal and a heck of a catch (not just because of her looks), you can tell that Young is head-over-heels for her BUT also a bit ashamed of her ordinary immigrant roots. While their romance is blooming, you always have the impression that Young is not willing to let go of his obligations and sense of what is proper and expected. So, when he later brings Lamar home to meet his family, he doesn't introduce her as his sweetheart, but a co-worker! Young later announces that he wants to marry her and bring her to live in his ancestral home--and she rejects him, as she likes to work and doesn't want to live in such a rigid life. Much of the film consists of flashbacks, as an older and regretful Young looks back at this love that was never to be. It also follows him as he marries a woman that he 'ought to' but for which he never felt any passion. They are content but never in love.

    This film is interesting because it's not just a romance but more of a portrait of a man--the romantic and mundane aspects as well. Not surprisingly, Robert Young does his usual wonderful job in the film. But who really impressed me was Hedy Lamar. In many other films she made she just seemed like a very pretty lady and nothing more. Here, she is not just radiant but does a fine job acting. Plus, her slight accent (after all, she was a Czech) worked in this film because she was supposed to be a child of immigrants--too often in films she was supposed to be an ordinary American but the accent didn't fit.

    Overall, this is a sad,...no, more of a wistful film about a man whose sense of duty seriously impairs his life. And, as a result, it's an interesting case of what might have been. And, it's also interesting seeing what happens when, after 20 years, the two meet once again and contemplate resuming their romance. Fascinating and different--and I adored the film's ending.

    By the way, in some ways this film's theme is a lot like that in "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg"---a magnificent film.
  • avatar

    Ustamya

    For me, this movie was like a box of chocolates, where some will be fabulous, some will be okay, and lots will be like tolerable filler, or worse.

    The good: Hedy lamarr. Never a fan of hers, she was my favorite element of the movie. Just interesting to watch, quirkily acted with a very unique personal style as she played a free-thinking, smart, independent, playful, cautious, fearful, fearless, ambitious, grounded character. I found her fascinating, which isn't surprising considering how smart she is alleged to have been in real life. It's the first time I've seen her on screen where her skill matched want I had read about her.

    The good: The elements of the plot line that challenged the formula, whether it's girl marries to access wealth, or that people live happily ever after. There were little bits of iconoclasm, like Hedy's character wanting a scotch without feeling the need to hide it.

    The bad: Sorry, Robert Young lovers. Look, I like Robert Young, too, as a person. He's a nice guy, warm , likable, but he was better for TV because he was so bland. He can't carry a movie, and certainly not one like that, that requires simultaneous layers of compromise, pain, frustration, ardor, denial, anger, honor. He's the principal reason the film is dull. When I read that Vidor wanted Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper it so made sense, and that Young was a compromise. Stewart would have brought the angst and layers to it that he brought to It's a Wnderful Life. The Gregory Peck of Valley of Decision had the power and range and internal drama to prople this movie. (he wasn't a star yet, or known).

    The good: Ruth Hussey. Underrated actress. She really shines in this movie, and I've never seen her so luminous, war, beautiful. She was usually cast more unidimensionally brittle.

    The so-so: Charles Coburn. Been there, done that.

    The so-so: Bonita Granville. Same part, different movie.
  • avatar

    Dishadel

    The movie involves the bittersweet flashbacks of Harry Pulham who is raised in a rich family environment in Boston in pre-World War II. A Harvard college reunion event triggers his past memories of his life starting back when he was a little boy. After graduating from college, he takes a advertising position in New York despite the disapproval of his parents. It is there that he meets a fellow worker (Hedy Lamarr) who he develops a strong attraction to and they eventually fall in love. Their social status background proves to be an impediment to their future plans to be married after Harry's father dies and he is left in charge of the household. Harry later marries another childhood acquaintance who broke off her engagement to another suitor. Harry and his former fellow coworker remain in love with each other despite the 20 years that passed after their split with each other. The movie deals with Harry's conflicting thoughts on whether he made the right choice to reject Marvin (his former lover) and to marry his wife. In the end, both lovers realize that they cannot go back to the past and continue with their lives as it is. The movie gives one some thoughts on decisions that we make in life and many questions on "what if?".

    Very good performances by the entire cast - Robert Young as Harry, Hedy Lamarr as Marvin, Ruth Hussey as Harry's wife, Charles Coburn as the father, Van Heflin as Harry's friend, and many other supporting cast members.

    I think the one weak spot in the movie for me was the breakup scene between Harry and Marvin which seemed too quick and not with much emotion. However, it is still a very well portrayed and emotionally strong presentation. This was definitely one of Hedy Lamarr's best performances.
  • avatar

    Inabel

    I have read about this film for years and looked forward to seeing it one day (legal troubles had kept it off television for years). Finally, Turner Movie Classics was able to broadcast it. With a cast that included the beautiful Hedy Lamarr and Robert Young, and directed by King Vidor, I was disappointed to discover that the film was extremely slow paced and rather dull. Not a bad film, but not a particularly good one either.
  • avatar

    Shakagul

    This terrific little gem of a drama puts forth the idea that we all "settle" in life, for a life (or person) more "stable" or, at least, more comfortable (e.g. per our upbringing). Though we may passionately believe we want that something (or someone) else, for practical reasons (or other circumstances) we'll accept "less". We may even hold onto an old dream, which we've romanticized about to the point that all the negatives are gone and only the positives remain in our memories, such that we believe it can still be made to work ... only to find that the moment has passed, we've changed, and/or the "air is out of the balloon":

    Such was the relationship portrayed between the staid title character, played by Robert Young, and a businesswoman, whose character was intentionally given the male name of Marvin, but is played by the decidedly unmasculine Hedy Lamarr. Though Pulham was raised to marry a woman like Kay (Ruth Hussey), whom he eventually does, he spends his early years in the advertising business pursuing co-worker (and artist?) Marvin, who's a bit too "modern" for his conservative family's values.

    The story is told in flashback, with Pulham examining his life while writing his Harvard class biography. Coincidentally, he's just gotten a call from Marvin, who's also married and just wants to meet for drinks after all these years.

    Produced and directed by King Vidor (who co-wrote the screenplay, based on the John Marquand novel with his wife Elizabeth Hill), the cast is excellent and includes Charles Coburn as Young's father, Van Heflin as his longtime friend, classmate and business associate, Fay Holden as his mother, Bonita Granville as his sister, Douglas Wood as his boss, and Sara Haden as his secretary. Charles Halton plays a client of the ad agency, Leif Erickson a football playing friend of Pulham's, and Anne Revere (uncredited) his father's secretary. Frank Faylen, Byron Foulger, Ava Gardner (her second film), Connie Gilchrist, and Grant Withers also appear uncredited.
  • avatar

    elektron

    So faces the reflective Robert Young, a wealthy Bostonian heir who is asked by old college chums to write out biographies of some of the most influential class men. The film does not concentrate on the reunion at all, only the life of the seemingly stuffy Young who counts each step he takes to get to his office, shares two peanuts with the squirrels and has a cigar waiting for him as he arrives at the office building. Sitting back for a minute and relaxing, he begins to remember everything from day one, including his internship at an advertising firm in New York where he met the beautiful Hedy Lamarr. But family responsibilities took him back to Boston, and that re-paired him with an old flame (Ruth Hussey) who twenty years later makes him feel as if he's in need of something new. Will his reunion with the still lovely Lamarr threaten the staidness of the marriage he's seemingly stuck in, or will it light a fire under his belt to try to make things a little better?

    Every glamorous trick in the MGM book was pulled out for this initially dull version of the John P. Marquand novel that somehow springs to life in the second half. The film is cinematically beautiful to look at, but certain aspects of it leave uncomfortable feelings, particularly Young's frequent hearing of the voices of his past within his own imagination, the sounds of these voices seemingly coming out of nowhere and rather piercingly recorded. Lamarr is a spitfire from the minute we meet her, and she lights up his stuffy world, especially when they go on a public relations trip to push the greatness of a soap detergent they are promoting. Washing socks leads to romance between the two and when Lamarr tries to fit into Young's world outside of New York, it is clear that the two could never be happy.

    The wonderful Charles Coburn is only briefly seen as Young's tycoon father, but even in his few scenes, he is completely touching. "Ma Hardy", Fay Holden, takes a different turn as Young's stuffy mother, and it is ironic that "Aunt Millie" (Sara Haden") has a small role as Young's secretary. When first seen, Ruth Hussey's character of Young's matron wife seems lifeless, like one of those cold society women of old who have no passion for anything but shopping, country clubs and fake good breeding. But there's something different in her as the second half of the film reveals, and it is apparent that she realizes that in order to get her man back, she has to practically loose him. The finale reunion between Young and Lamarr is heart-breaking, and for one of the few times (other than as Tondelao), Lamarr is quite alive, perhaps better directed for a change, here by King Vidor, not the usual beautiful "Ice Princess" of most of her MGM films.

    Van Heflin and Leif Erickson offer interesting characterizations as two of Young's pals. There's a great snow sledding sequence which sped up the film quite a bit, and a subtle underlying message when Lamarr briefly meets Ma Pulham. The problem is that the film just takes too long to get going, even though the three stars are trying their best to sparkle things up. It's like a ballet with too many slow dances and not enough up-beat music to keep the attention going, or a play where the second act is much better than the first and makes you say, "Now that was worth waiting for!".
  • avatar

    asAS

    From John Marquand's celebrated book, with Robert Young playing a married Bostonian businessman who lives his precise existence by the clock, harking back on his struggling early days as a junior-executive with an advertising firm in love with a sweet, efficient co-worker. The flashbacks take some time adjusting to (Young parts his hair differently and loses the tidy mustache), and grumpy Charles Coburn comes up with nothing new as Young's blue blood father. However, Hedy Lamarr is attractive, smart and astute as the gal who catches Robert's eye, and it may be the best piece of acting Lamarr ever did; her sultry accent and bedroom eyes are neatly ignored, and Lamarr proves to be a natural playing a relatively ordinary working girl with a head for business and a heart for romance. She and Young develop a warm chemistry together but, despite the smiles, the picture is about regrets and missed opportunities. It looks like a formula today: successful man searches his past and ponders the paths he ultimately chose. Rather colorless and dull. ** from ****
  • avatar

    Kea

    Hedy Lamarr didn't move from Austria to Hollywood to make money and achieve fame, although her parents persuaded her to engage in the performing arts industry. Perhaps, because she was not as 'industrious' as some actresses, she could be convincing on film without much effort. Hedy didn't have to try to be beautiful, she was a natural. Hedy's female co-star, Bonita Granville was a petite little blonde (5' tall) who had a figure that would be appreciated in film today where women don't wear girdles. same with Hedy....she had a beautiful butt.

    Hedy was a scientist first, a movie star second. She did almost as much for the WWII allied effort as Golda Meir did for Israel, raising millions in war bonds. Hedy was still young and in demand in Hollywood when she retired. Do I wish I was born longer ago and could have met Hedy? Of course, although, being born in 1941 on Pearl Harbor Day,I am lucky to be alive during the 'electronic age' which fits nicely into my demeanor. As for the film....any movie starring Hedy Lamarr is a good movie.
  • avatar

    Taur

    Throughout this project of watching nearly every movie ever made, or at least in every attempt possible, I am beginning to discover which films speak to me. There are those that entertain, those that mentally challenge, and those that transform your cinematic experience all together, but for me, the type of film that excites me these days are the delicate semi-biographical pre-1950s story. With a cautious blend of "Citizen Kane" and "Magnificent Ambersons" with that of the modern "Mad Men", the barely watched film, "H.M. Pulham, Esq." finally arrived at the doorstep. Unbeknownst that this film would be reminiscent of such films, I began with the unknown. Available only via Warner's print-on- demand DVD Vault, there was a level of uncertainty as to why this had never been released, or would the print be so destroyed the experience would be lost (see review of "The Lady and the Monster"). To my surprise, it wasn't – and this two hour epic ("epic" is correct; due to the emotion, landscape, and themes of this film) quickly filled the cannon that was once overpopulated by Orson Welles. With dry characters like Harry Pulham and Kay Motford countered with the exciting Marvin Myles and Bill King as well as the quintessential sledding scene (needed in every semi-biographical film), "H.M. Pulham, Esq." pulled ahead in the ranks as I settled down for an amazing feature. It was shocking, intelligent, slow, predictable, and a bit pioneering for the date – and I loved every minute of it.

    "H.M. Pulham, Esq." tells the story of a man, Harry Pulham (played simply by Robert Young) as he randomly gets a call from a Harvard friend requesting that he write a bit of a biography for the upcoming reunion. Coincidentally, he gets a call the same day from an old flame, and Harry uses the entire day to give us the "It's a Wonderful Life" flashback scenario where we learn about his life, and current consequences. As we travel back and forth, we fall in love with a core of four characters, Harry (of course), Marvin Myles the sassy co-worker, Bill King the obnoxious lady-killer, and Kay everyone's safe bet. It is these four characters that take us from New York to the country, from love to hate, and from passion to comfort. As Harry continues to look back onto his life, he begins to question his decisions, and the world of possibilities available.

    "H.M. Pulham, Esq." would not have worked had it not been for these four characters. It is a driven character drama, thus without our actors taking full opportunity, it would have transformed into this two-hour snooze-fest, but instead they embraced, and allowed us to get to know each one individually, as well as a whole. Robert Young's Harry is probably the easiest to swallow, because is portrays him as this unguided everyman, lured by the life of NYC, but focused on family and dedication. His friends pull him in every direction, but he is grounded must make the decision between love and comfort. Each one of our characters builds upon this story, and where it succeeds the most is that director King Vidor (you know, the one that gave us the Kansas scenes in "Wizard of Oz" as well as "War and Peace") isn't afraid to push the limits. Or, at least the limits allowed in 1941. Again, I cannot stress that this is a fictional biography story that melds well within the folds of society. Vidor has succeeded greatly in this little feature because he has taken the great elements of "Magnificent Ambersons" and "It's A Wonderful Life" and plopped them into this unknown feature. Yes, at times it is long - and you better believe that there are moments that date this film - but in the end, it will warm your heart, but also make you look within your own life.

    "H.M. Pulham, Esq" feels like a universal film. It is one of those movies that goes great with snow outside and a warm glass of cider. It shows a side of cinema that we forget about when we think of classic cinema. During this project, I have watched two films that stood beyond the norm - that Hollywood seemed to snub - and fell in love with both of them. One was the film I have repeated throughout this review, "The Magnificent Ambersons", and the second is this little film. Again, it is a simple film that presses a message relevant in 1941 or 2009, the idea of choices and consequences.

    Overall, I may sound repetitive with this, but I loved with this film had to offer. Perhaps it was my mood for the evening, or the sense of nostalgia for this style of film, but this film took me back to a simple cinematic experience. There was booze, talk of sex, and infidelity all within the two hours, which surprised me greatly. The actors did their parts with great effort, and each point went to the next. There was a purpose behind each person's actions, and it was developed. Not just dropped to the floor. King Vidor did a fantastic job behind the camera giving us lush landscapes and power driven characters. If you don't mind spending some money for this film, I would suggest a viewing. It was impressive.

    Grade: **** out of *****
  • avatar

    Zuser

    To the manor born Henry Pulham has his life mapped out for him by an overbearing father (Charles Coburn). Garnering experience in his early years he meets and falls in love with Marvin Ransome (Hedy Lamar) an ambitious and vivacious woman who exposes the staid Pulham to a wider world. Still, family responsiblities remain a priority and HM is prodded by dad to get his life in order which entails losing Marvin and marrying someone else. Assuming his fathers role in the business Pulham becomes the well respected man but with regrets. Years later he once again crosses paths with Marvin and is forced to confront feelings he stifled over the years.

    Pulham's staid style never builds much of a fever pitch in spite of the alluring Lamar. Young's Pulham spends most of the film in a dull funk being casually pushed around by his father and called on it by Marvin. He's just not that much fun or interesting to follow around, his station in life just doesn't allow it. Van Heflin and Ruth Hussey as his wife lend fine supporting performances while Coburn takes the acting honors as the forever lecturing old man.

    Silent film director King Vidor made the move to sound as smoothly as anyone but it was usually with downtrodden characters (The Crowd, Street Scene, Halaluah ,The Champ, our Daily Bread ) and situations that he could build on the desperate pitch of. In Pulham we have a poor little rich kid who never shows much backbone or confronts much high drama. Vidor is ultimately hamstrung by his title character's incertitude and timidity and the film slides to it's conclusion without much life.
  • avatar

    Nenayally

    Actually this A Film from MGM is definitely first class all the way. With King Vidor's excellent direction and a very solid story line, this one still plays well today. It is told via flashback and even though it goes back and forth more than once (about 3 times), Vidor makes it quite easy to follow.

    Hedy Lamarr is excellent as the girl named Marvin Myles. Robert Young is near the top of his acting here too as Harry Pulham, the lucky man who is born into money but chooses to get a job after he gets out of college away from home in New York City selling advertising. It is there he meets and falls for Marvin, a co-worker who becomes smitten with and she becomes smitten with him.

    Young is very lucky here as back home Ruth Hussey (Kay Motford) is daddy's & Mommy's choice (Charles Coburn & Fay Holden) for him to marry. While he is working, his love with Myles gets so intense that Harry takes her home to meet his parents.

    Everything would be great at this point as Harry decides he wants to marry Marvin, but she turns him down and they go their own ways, though the story telling is done slowly and carefully. There are childhood scenes and a full filling in of the back story of everyone except Marvin who is the invader here.

    This film has a solid back up cast headed by Van Heflin and Bonita Granville as Mary Pulham, Harry's younger sister. As an MGM A feature it runs longer than 2 hours.

    The ending, though predictable is a happy one. Hussey (Mrs. Pulham) after 20 years of marriage nearly drives Harry back into Marvins arms (though he husband who looks like Harry is never seen) is notably absent. This is on purpose as this is the story of a long married middle aged man being found again by his long lost love.

    Robert Young is a lucky man as he plays a role that has all the best here from money to 2 women who love him. I think anyone can envy him though I would have hated missing Hedy, though Hussey is an excellent consolation prize.