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Spoiled heiress Louise Durant decides to leave the comfort of her father's estate in southern France to study piano at the Music Conservatory in Zurich, despite she knowing she not having ... See full summary »
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In 1796, Captain George Brummell of the 10th Royal Hussars Regiment offends the Prince of Wales with his straightforward outspokenness and gets fired from the army but is chosen as the Prince's personal advisor.
If the one-sentence synopsis, "A sickly teenager wishes more than anything to be allowed to perform in the school play," doesn't grab you, don't pay it any attention. Watch Cynthia anyway. It's a delightful gem from Elizabeth Taylor's younger days, even earlier than Little Women! And speaking of Little Women, Mary Astor plays Liz's mother in this film as well. George Murphy plays her father, and S.Z. Sakall rounds out the cast as the school's lovable theater director.
At the start of the film, Mary and George are shown young and in love, and their adorable romance quickly blossoms into marriage. They have grand plans to live in Vienna and study music and medicine, but when Mary gets pregnant, their plans go on hold temporarily. Fifteen years later, they're stuck in the same small town, renting a house they can't afford, struggling to pay their daughter's outrageous doctor's bills on a one-income salary from George's work in a hardware store. The parents' part of the film is actually quite sad, as you feel their disappointment as well as their guilt whenever they resent their lost dreams. Both George and Mary give wonderful performances.
Because George and Mary are so three-dimensional, it's difficult to call Liz the gem of the film, but she really is. She's so delightful, innocent, charming, passionate, and frail, culminating in such a captivating performance it's absolutely impossible not to love her. And since it's so impossible not to love her, you understand why George bows and scrapes to his boss as well as his brother-in-law, the greedy Gene Lockhart who treats Liz during her countless illnesses. You understand every part of Mary's behavior, as she embodies every mother's journey in raising a teenaged daughter. In one scene, Liz comes home from her first date. Mary wants to revel in her daughter's happiness, but she also tries to instill responsibility, like taking better care of her dress or soaking in a hot bath so she won't catch cold.
Every part of this movie is a joy to watch, from the cute to the tragic. You'll reach for your handkerchief from time to time, and if you watch this with your kids or parents, you'll cry even more. Everyone gives strong performances, and I'm sure you'll find your favorite moments as I have. At the heart of it all is Elizabeth Taylor, so beautiful and yet so innocent and fresh, even though it's impossible she ever felt what her character went through in real life. How could the gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor know what it felt like to be ignored by all the boys in school, and then the thrilling joy at being allowed to go to her first dance? It's called acting, and she does it beautifully.
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