DODSWORTH ( 1936 )

I know “Dodsworth.” You know “Dodsworth.” I know you know “Dodsworth.” You know I know “Dodsworth” and I know you know I know “Dodsworth.” So let me quit beating around the bush and tell you briefly my thoughts on “Dodsworth.”

What an excellent motion picture.


DODSWORTH ( HUSTON )I enjoy 1936’s Dodsworth.” William Wyler directs Walter Huston ( as Sam Dodsworth )  to a killer performance as a man who’s worked all his life…and now has to learn how to really LIVE. Dodsworth’s boyish open willingness to discover new things was engaging. Ruth Chatterton has the thankless but important role of Fran Dodsworth, and does a grand job with the challenge of playing a woman who fights against becoming old. It fits Chatterton like a glove, giving me the impression she knows this woman like a book. She doesn’t shy away from her. Fran’s a woman who wants experiences she didn’t get to have while being married…raising a child. I think what she also wanted was her husband’s permission to have flings. THAT was not going to happen. But what’s a bored housewife supposed to do? Go to museums??? Poor Dodsworth. He’s losing his wife right before his unsuspecting trusting eyes.

SPOILERS? Naaaaah. Not really. I know you know I know you know…


I liked their breakfast scene in Paris, where we really see they are going their own separate ways and living separate lives.

I liked Mary Astor and Ruth Chatterton’s “when you’re MY age”- scene. I wait for the entire movie to see Astor say her goodbyes to Chatterton, look over at Paul Lukas and tells Chatterton: “My dear. Don’t.”

I liked Huston’s tirade that his library is out of order when it’s really his life that is out of order. ( Ooooh look, there’s that cutie pie John Payne as the son-in-law ).

My heart breaks when he’s on the train and says to Chatterton how much he adores her.

Call me crazy, call me silly…but I loved Huston taking off his pants and preparing for bed. That scene seemed very mature for the post-Code 1930’s-audience. ( Don’t mind me giggling, There’s Walter Huston in his underwear!” )

DODSWORTHI just loved Mary Astor’s character; her beauty, maturity and love for Dodsworth. She helped him breathe and relax. She was a good companion for him. Ahhh, Mary. One of the best leading lady / character actresses to come out of Hollywood. I still think she is unsung when we talk of actresses like Davis, Stanwyck, Bergman or deHavilland.

Go to this cozy corner of my blog and read Fernando’s review of this classic movie, below see a video montage of Astor’s work, and here you can find an excerpt from her autobiography.

(   H O M E   )


16 thoughts on “DODSWORTH ( 1936 )

  1. Lovely and loving. Thank you.

    The fans know what the cinephiles don’t understand: what the world needs is love.

    Comparing the two women illustrates the difference between performance and characterization.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Bob…here you are again. Thanks! Count me in as a FAN of movies. No talk here of semiotics or the male gaze. ( Well, I may already be brainwashed, but still… ). I’m all about love.


    • Bob I would love you to elaborate on your differentiation between performance and characterization. I bet it is going to be fascinating, since this film is on my top five list and I can’t get enough of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Marvin.Go see Mary Poppins; you won't be sorry, and Victor, Victoria as well! See you at Gee Whiz. on said:

    Terrific movie and one which I never tire of viewing. Your points are spot on (as usual) and the three principal performances were superb! Mary Astor remains both one of the screen’s great actresses and beauties!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Marvin. Again…I must say formally “thank you so much for reading.” Glad my writing still holds your interest. I really like “Dodsworth” though it’s not a movie I watch every time it’s on. It’s so painful these ‘scenes from a marriage’ where things are busting apart. I agree with you that Huston, Astor and Chatterton did great work with their roles…and Astor’s beauty…sublime. ( I especially like her voice ).


  3. So agree with all that you have written, particularly your take on Mary Astor. She is so great in this film! I wait for that final shot of Mary’s face, bursting into such pure joy…..ahhhh. And I, too, Theresa, wonder what Astor could have done with some of the big, meaty roles that went to Davis, Stanwyck and Hepburn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susan, my favorite Mary moment is her telling Chatterton, “My dear. Don’t.” But that look of boundless joy at Dodsworth returning makes my heart burst; perhaps love really CAN work. They give me hope. Astor feels emotional to me. Whether she’s lashing out in anger in “The Great Lie” or lying her head off to Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon” or her desperation in “Act of Violence.” I love all iterations of Mary. Her beauty surpasses theirs…Davis, Stanwyck and Hepburn were kinda lucky Mary was in the tier right below them.


  4. Loved reading your review Tess. Dodsworth has been one of my favorite movies for a long time. It is indeed an adult film and surprisingly so, given it was made after the Code was enforced. Wyler is my favorite film director and this is my favorite Wyler film. Astor is sublime in a subdued and nuanced performance. Walter Huston was one of the greatest actors ever with SUCH a range. Ruth Chatterton is great. It is such an honest film about middle age. This is one film I am going to watch again and again forever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • High praise from you on this well-done film. It doesn’t feel like this film was made in the 30’s. It feels modern to me because there’s no sugar-coating. This couple is drifting apart. And they don’t get together at the end in a nice pink marital bow. We see a man reaching towards happiness and fulfillment and a woman making horrible mistakes. Like you say, all three leads were really good and I think Walter Huston has got to be the most natural actor I’ve ever seen from back then. ( He and Tracy…neck in neck ). WYLER! If I had to pick a director’s career to emulate it’d be either him or Hitchcock. Looking over his filmography, I’d have to say “THE LETTER” would be my favorite William Wyler film. But look at what the man directed: “Mrs. Miniver” “Detective Story” “The Best Years Of Our Lives” “Roman Holiday” etc. etc. etc. Do we have to pick just one? Thanks for your comments my pal old pal.


      • No, Theresa. Happily, movies are not like love and marriage, and we do not have to choose one. We can love them all. Well, maybe a few, or even several.

        Fedo, in a nutshell, characterization is the creation of a real person without mad scenes, drunk scenes, big speeches, and extreme alteration of body and face. Of course, these two aspects of acting can work together. A good example of a great characterization that is not so much a performance, and one familiar to us all, is Jane Greer’s in Out of the Past. She doesn’t DO anything. She just IS. And isn’t it amazing!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Bob for elaborating. I guessed something like that. So you mean Mary Astor=characterization and Ruth Chatterton=performance. I see it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very simply stated, Theresa, yes that’s about it. I am also thinking of those people who hardly seem to be acting at all, Like Mitchum or Lancaster in practically everything except Elmer Gantry, and of course that’s what he got an Oscar for!


  5. I lov how you described Huston as losing his wife before his “unsuspecting trusting eyes.” So true and heartbreaking to see.

    Huston, Chatterton and Astor are superb in this film, aren’t they? Chatterton does have a thankless role, but she is ideally suited for it. And Astor is so charming you LONG for Huston to end up with her.

    Great review!


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