Enchantment (1948) DVD Review: Everlasting Loves, Friends, and Lovers Divine

Keeping up with their brief, recent Samuel Goldwyn/David Niven motif, the Warner Archive Collection has re-issued the 1948 romantic drama oddity Enchantment, previously available on DVD from MGM. Based on the 1945 novel Take Three Tenses: A Fugue in Time by Rumer Godden (who also wrote the original literary version of Black Narcissus, which had been made into a now-classic film in 1947), Enchantment brings us a rather unique take on that which a philosopher named Jones once referred to as “an everlasting love” – wherein the narrative takes on a sort of nonlinear approach to inform us, the lovelorn viewer, that the plight of a good romance remains essentially the same over the course of time.

Returning to his London home after several long decades in the military, aged colonel Sir Roland (David Niven, under a lot of fluffy white-haired appliances), better known as “Rollo”, has come home to live out his remaining days in peace and quiet, reflecting on the past while the unknown outcome of World War II plays out all around. But his peace in interrupted when his niece Grizel (Evelyn Keyes) – an ambulance driver on-loan from America – arrives in search of temporary lodging. Undaunted by having been christened with such a terrible name by her parents, Grizel soon manages to make the acquaintance of and fall in love with an injured Canadian pilot (Farley Granger) whose parents named him Pax. Yes, they were most assuredly made for each other now, weren’t they?

What’s more, Pax happens to be the niece of the mysterious Lark, whom Rollo’s father took in as a ward at a very young age when her parents were killed in a train accident. Via Rollo’s own flashbacks, we are not only reminded what David Niven looks like without fluffy white-haired appliances glued to his face and head, but of that which the elderly colonel looks back upon so fondly. Yet with great disdain, as we gradually loathe young Rollo’s older sister (Jayne Meadows, at her cruelest), who resented Lark from day one, tormenting her as a child (wherein she is played by the great Gigi Perreau), and further preventing her from living life as an adult (when she is portrayed by Teresa Wright), when she and Rollo finally face their own feelings for each other.

Philip Friend plays the other sibling (the man who would eventually name his onscreen daughter Grizel), and the always-old Leo G. Carroll plays the family butler in both timelines (and gets to wear some fluffy white-haired appliances in the process himself). Irving Reis directs from a script by John Patrick (The Teahouse of the August Moon). The movie was advertised as “Just about the most wonderful love story ever filmed”, which makes me wonder if anyone in the advertising campaign actually watched the movie in question, or if they had ever experienced the seemingly-rare emotion themselves, as Enchantment can be quite a downer if you’re not in the right mood to witness a tale of unattainable love. That said, though, it’s a well-acted picture, right down to the explosive (literally) finale.

The transfer here in this Warner Archive presentation is also quite nice (though the main image can look a little bit distorted when the camera pans about), and I believe this is the same transfer as the now long out of print 2005 MGM DVD, original theatrical trailer and nice big optional English subtitles included. Honestly, had it not been for the surprise discovery of the subtitles (they aren’t mentioned on the disc’s packaging or on the menu, for that matter), I wouldn’t have even suspected this was a re-issue. But of course, that’s rather irrelevant, and anyone who has been looking for this one can now rest easy in their private movie-viewing room and reminisce about the glorious days when we had such great actors like Niven, Wright, Meadows, and Granger to love.

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Luigi Bastardo

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