Winter Meeting (1948)

Winter Meeting (1948)

This deadly dull romance drama starring Bette Davis and oddly cast Jim Davis (no relation) in thankfully his only leading role of this type was directed by Bretaigne Windust. Made from an Ethel Vance (aka Grace Zaring Stone) novel with a screenplay by Catherine Turney it also features Janis Paige John Hoyt Florence Bates Walter Baldwin and Ransom Sherman in minor supporting roles. Even the great Bette can’t save this clunker about a poet spinster who falls in love for the first time with a World War II hero who’d wanted to become a priest; both have skeletons in their closets neither is particularly credible or compelling. Max Steiner’s overly dramatic score also doesn’t breathe any life into the script.

Susan Grieve (Bette Davis) is a successful poetess who also happens to be an heiress living in New York that got into the habit of helping out at the veterans’ hospital during the war. Her snobbish investment banker friend Stacy Grant (Hoyt) is a social butterfly that occasionally invites her out as his escort. One evening Susan is Stacy’s "date" for dinner with a WW II hero named Slick Novak (Jim Davis) who’d been thought dead initially then been found alive. Stacy had arranged a blind date for his secretary Peggy Markham (Paige) with Slick. Unfortunately for superficial Peggy Slick is more of an intellectual type so he’s more interested in Susan much to their dinner partners’ surprise (and ours since there’s virtually no conversation or other reason for these two to get together). Sherman plays a businessman who recognizes the hero making Slick feel uncomfortable in the spotlight.

Incredulously after an unromantic dance together Susan cuts the "double date" short yet brooding Slick insists on escorting her to her door. Inside her apartment the two share a little information about themselves with the other until "cave man" Slick embraces the initially reluctant Susan. Apparently this leads to a dam break of sorts because after some continued mutual kissing and/or alluded to "fireworks" that evening Slick returns to Susan’s apartment the next day around noon and the two begin to declare their love for one another. They decide to take a drive which leads them out of the city to Susan’s country home where her family’s caretakers Mr. & Mrs. Castle (Baldwin & Bates) still live even though she hasn’t been there for 5 years. Very slowly the truth about each these lead characters comes out:

Susan’s contempt for her mother whose dalliances had driven her forgiving reverend father so mad that he’d taken his own life (in the chair of the country home Susan had been avoiding for years since the incident) had driven her away into estrangement from her daughter; Slick who’d wanted to become a priest since he was sixteen had a chance to perform nobly in the Navy during the war and basked in his own glory while those whose lives he’d saved perished a week later anyway making him feel like God had punished him for his pride.

Slick abruptly leaves the country home leaving Susan to wallow in lost love for the first time in her life. When she returns to New York and the life of the living on yet another dinner date with her friend Stacy coincidently Slick turns up at the same club with Peggy who’s thrilled to have a chance to get back at Susan by flaunting her new yet obviously uncomfortable date in front of the spinster. After a brief conversation comprised mostly of Peggy rubbing Susan’s nose in it Stacy makes their excuses then tells Peggy that she’s fired on the way out the door. Slick returns to Susan’s apartment later and she’s able to encourage him to pursue his desired profession by telling him that she’d listened to what he’d told her at the country home that she hadn’t considered her mother’s position in the matter and that she should contact her to renew their relationship before it’s too late. He leaves full of hope while she dials her mother at the hospital where she’s been for the past several months.

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