(2 of 3)
Fred's readjustment with his wife is not so easy. Under the shock of war, she has developed that reliable old case of amnesia. She doesn't know Fred MacMurray from Fred Allen, and has married a rich planter (Roland Culver), who believes in letting sleeping memories lie. Before he can get her back, MacMurray, who hardly seems up to it, has to shoot holes in a couple of heavies; Ava has to get a bang on the head to restore her memory; and Culver has to turn decent and tell her not to worry about him. The British authorities are not in the least concerned about anything except getting Boy & Girl together and out of the country on the earliest possible plane.
The Tawny Pipit (Rank; Prestige) is to the Englishan exceptionally rare species of titlark. When a pair of them nest in an English field, for the second time on record, World War II becomes about as important, at least to England's more avid ornithologists, as a movie organist's spot between features. England's lay bird lovers are almost as deeply stirred; the whole village of Lipsbury Lea is determined that the pipits shall hatch their brood in peace.
Practicing tankmen are persuaded to keep their distance; the Ministry of Agriculture cancels an order to plow the pipits' particular field; village parishioners sing a lady poet's uproarious anthem in praise of the birds. Menace is supplied by practitioners of the queerest racket yet to break into the movies: egg stealing. The local colonel (retired) bumbles out the movie's "message," to the general effect that Englishmen, funny as they appear about it, are lovers of nature and of fair play, and that, in a sense, the tawny pipits are what England is fighting for.
In the hands of René Clair, this yarn might have become a wonderful piece of fun. Bernard Miles and Charles Saunders, who collaborated in writing and directing Pipit, are not quite equal to their idea; and Mr. Miles, who is too young to play the colonel, is not quite up to his role. Now & then the picture, probably the most intensely insular movie the British have yet exported to the U.S., becomes too clumsy or too coy; from beginning to end it is as genteel as rectory crumpets. And though none of the classical Village Types is revealed on the level of high comedy, the picture has considerable charm and humor.
Cynthia (MGM) is a timid smalltown girl (Elizabeth Taylor) in distress. Born delicate, she is kept sickly by her own unhappiness, her frustrated, overanxious parents (George Murphy, Mary Astor) and her pompous doctor-uncle (Gene Lockhart), who bullies the whole family. Music (S. Z. Sakall) and Young Love (James Lydon) arouse in Cynthia a desire to liveand to live like other girls.
The story is told in terms of the small disappointments and triumphs of high-school concerts and dances, the large horrors of quarrelsome family dinners. At its best, it is pleasantly reminiscent of the late Booth Tarkington. At its worst, it slops over with such cheap laughs as the writhings of a tuxedoed adolescent with a recalcitrant shirt front. M-G-M is thinking of condemning pretty Elizabeth Taylor to the salt minesor gold minesof a Cynthia series, a la Andy Hardy.