Customer Review

21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She was robbed!, December 28, 2011
This review is from: The Constant Nymph (DVD)
It took us several days to get through the moving and glittery CONSTANT NYMPH, but others may just want to dive in and drown in its luxurious Warner Brothers gloss and the fabulous Korngold music. As Glenn Erickson says on the DVD Savant blog, THE CONSTANT NYMPH dramatizes the making of a musical composition, the "symphonic poem" TO-MORROW which gradually grows and changes and attains its final expression during the course of the film, and this part of the film is a triumphant success. It is a glorious piece of music and the oddest thing is that when the singer, the glorious Clemence Groves, begins her solo, the chord changes are dramatically similar to those of a much later piece of musical theater, Stephen Sondheim's "Losing My Mind" from FOLLIES--and I'm like, hey, that's weird, didn't FOLLIES also have Alexis Smith in it? I wondered if Sondheim had played around with "To-Morrow" when he was composing "Losing My Mind" as a tribute to his great star.

Well, maybe it's me losing my mind, but wait till you see it! As the first reviewer on Amazon I should tell you something about the movie, it is based on a novel that was one of my grandmother's favorites, by Margaret Kennedy, and it's one of those novels, like Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann, in which a young outsider falls in love with an entire family. In this case, the British composer Lewis Dodd encounters an older master, Albert Sanger, and takes to his entire bohemian setup of girls. (If you like I CAPTURE THE CASTLE you'll enjoy this one too.) Hiring Charles Boyer meant that they had to make Lewis Dodd Belgian? Not French, Belgian, perhaps Belgians were considered more kinky than Frenchmen? Anyhow it seems crazy that they bothered to make him Belgian but to still keep his very British name, "Lewis Dodd." Many have noticed that the name is strongly reminiscent of that of the creator of Alice in Wonderland, and maybe there's something of the relationship between the real-life Dodgson and Alice in the love affair between young Tessa Sanger and Lewis Dodd.

It reads a bit differently today, then it did when Kennedy conceived of this plot in the 1920s, when girls married younger, but Joan Fontaine is playing Tessa as though she were 14 or so, while Charles Boyer is a rather youthful 35 or so? Still it's sort of creepy, and it stops you in your tracks once or twice. Anyhow after her father's death, Tessa and the other girls become dependent on the Creighton family, led by creepy Charles Coburn (actually quite lovable in the film) and his daughter, Alexis Smith--just glorious--perhaps her finest hour until FOLLIES! Florence (Alexis Smith) marries Boyer during a mistaken moment of adult passion, and she regrets it ever after. He is the worst husband in the movies, but he retains his charm nonetheless. Joan Fontaine is astonishing and I can't believe she won the Oscar for SUSPICION and not this! That little girl act can be cloying and awful like Ginger Rogers in The Major and the Minor, but Fontaine pulls it off through long long stretches of the movie, only slipping from time to time in the second tragic half of the show. Now who did win the Oscar that year--who stole it from Joan Fontaine? Let me check.

Oh my God, Jennifer Jones!
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 31, 2012 11:35:44 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 1, 2012 2:57:56 PM PST
The 25-year-old Fontaine could pass for younger than the 21-year-old Smith, but that's more that Smith was more buxom. I found Fontaine's 14-year-old impossible to credit. And the Korngold symphony! Hard to believe that he actually wrote some music for concert halls in addition to his Warner Brothers soundtracks!

And M. Boyer was a not especially youthful 43 or 44.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 25, 2012 5:31:36 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 25, 2012 5:32:36 PM PST
Also noticed that bits of the score echo Korngold's Adventures of Robin Hood (the love scenes). Lovely, though, despite that.

Posted on Aug 14, 2012 6:46:57 AM PDT
libriarsque says:
JENNIFER JONES???????? For Bernadette, right? Ugh. Not Bernadette, ugh Jones.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2012 3:02:29 PM PDT
An Old-Timer says:
Without Joan Fontaine this movie would be ordinary - with her, it's a fantasy come to life.

Posted on Jan 11, 2013 6:27:17 PM PST
I agree it's odd to have Boyer a Belgian, with a british name. It's a great movie and quite faithful to the book, considering the censorship of the times. Not that the book is naughty at all, just more realistic about human nature.
In the book, the story begins when Tessa is 14 and Lewis 24. It makes more sense.
I highly recommend the film and also the original novel, which is easy to find.
Fontaine pulls off a 14 year old succesfully by playing it without cuteness. She's runs through plenty of teenage emotions like shyness, self conciousness, exuberance, intense emotion, but she eschews cute and that makes it work. Amazing job.

Posted on May 18, 2014 2:16:42 PM PDT
Snakewoman says:
I am currently reading the book. Tessa IS 14 years old, at least during the 1st half, which is as far as I have gotten so far. Not sure I'll finish. Getting kind of sluggish.

Posted on May 19, 2014 4:53:20 PM PDT
Sturgis says:
Re: "Losing My Mind", Sondheim says in Finishing the Hat, "Musically, this was less an homage to, than a theft of Gershwin's 'The Man I Love' complete with near-stenciled rhythms and harmonies." For my money, whatever he did, this is one of his greatest songs, tailor made as it was to Dorothy Collins, who sang it to perfection in the original production. The sheer simplicity of what he did transforming Gershwin is just one mark of his genius.
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Kevin Killian

Location: San Francisco, CA United States

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