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My Reputation, 1946

My Reputation, released January 25, 1946. Directed by Curtis Bernhardt

Stanwyck is a widow (Jessica Drummond) with a suffocating load of obligations: house, kids and a life, of course, but added on top is a mother who is quite certain a woman's life more or less ends once her husband dies, and a long period of mourning must commence, i.e, the rest of your existence.

In addition, there are the local people Jessica has always known who are aghast when she begins spending time with a soldier (George Brent) who does not meet their societal expectations (they're snobs who conjure nasty gossip when needed). So, on multiple-fronts, Jessica is at war with the expectations of her world and must choose to conform, or risk losing everything to break free.

Well, this is a Stanwyck movie so we know which way she is going to go, but director Curtis Bernhardt makes the trip seem not necessarily certain, and there are real tensions about what a widowed mom must do (or might do) with all that life left to lead when a husband dies, a question well worth asking with World War II just ending.

My Reputation is a bit of a twist from Ibsen's A Doll's House, but instead of the patriarchy making things rough, it's the matriarchy, and part of the solution here is facing down mother (which does look daunting, Lucile Watson portrays Mom as a weaponized paragon of outmoded traditions); the other issue is how to be with Maj. Landis (George Brent) who has very little patience for the snobs and New England traditions that are strangling Jessica.

James Wong Howe provides lush, rich black and white photography for this (emotionally) epic tale of telling Mom "no".

An older review of My Reputation is here.

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Original Page April 2015 | Updated July 2016

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