Dodsworth (1936)

“Remember, I, I did make a home for you once, and I’ll do it again, only you’ve got to let me have my fling now! Because you’re simply rushing at old age, Sam, and I’m not ready for that yet.”

‘Dodsworth’, directed by William Wyler in 1936, is an American drama starring Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton as a married couple who, after travelling to Europe, find their relationship crumbling. Huston plays Samuel Dodsworth, a wealthy industrialist who retires early to escape the rat-race and the claustrophobia of the small town in America in which he lives. With his wife Fran, he travels across the Atlantic, but on the way Fran flirts with an Englishman, played by David Niven, and then, on arriving in Paris, becomes besotted by a playboy called Iselin. Dodsworth is persuaded by his wife to let her go her own way and, after a while, they decide to divorce. Dodsworth, in the meantime, encounters an American divorcee in Italy and they end up falling in love. When Ruth’s new relationship falls apart however, Dodsworth is torn between unwillingly returning to his wife, or staying with Edith and beginning a new life. It’s a film that balances the lavishness and opulence of the Dodsworth’s travels and love affairs, with the coldness and cynicism of their relationship breakdown. There’s a feeling a apathy brought on by over-indulgement that can also be found in Roberto Rossellini’s later film ‘Journey to Italy’, a movie that shares a similar theme. Ultimately, Dodsworth is an optimistic film, but the surprisingly dark trajectory of the character’s journey off-sets this.

Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s a sophisticated and deftly performed study of marriage at the time. Watch in a double bill with ‘Journey to Italy’.

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