MARCH / APRIL 2012: BY PATTI GARDNER
Hopes, dreams, longings and aspirations are all wonderful things to have.
In fact, they are good and right and necessary, for they give us a road map, of sorts, to the places we long to go in life. They spur us onward and upward and keep us from being complacent and settling for the status-quo. Yet sometimes, as can be seen in the 1938 film The Sisters, dreams can be the things which threaten to rob us of what we want the most. Sometimes, the dream of bigger and better can keep one from contentment and happiness in the here and now. Sometimes, as we will see, wanting something else instead of what we have, may very well cause us to lose all we hold dear.
The Sisters, which stars the very dashing Errol Flynn and the always-sensational Bette Davis, begins in Silver Bow, Montana, in the year 1904. The nation has just re-elected Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency, and the Elliott family is among those who are enjoying a lavish election-eve ball. The three Elliott daughters—Louise (Bette Davis), Helen, (Anita Louise), and Grace (Jane Bryan)—are all of marriageable age, and it would appear that Louise, who is involved with the banker’s son, will be the first of the sisters to tie the knot. However, since said man (Tom) hasn’t popped the question yet, Louise is all eyes when the father of a friend makes his entrance, accompanied by a handsome stranger (Errol Flynn) who is in town on business.
As Louise is dancing with another man, the good-looking stranger (who is as attracted to Louise as she is to him) cuts in. Introducing himself as Frank Medlin, a newspaperman from San Francisco, he proceeds to sweep the lovely Miss Elliott off her feet. For the remainder of the evening, as the happy couple talks and laughs together, no one else even exists; by the time they part company several hours later, Frank has agreed to stay on for a bit in Montana, provided Louise promises to see him every evening, which, of course, she does.
Telling Louise that he is trying to write a novel but isn’t really getting anywhere with it, Frank admits that he has a bit of wanderlust in him. But knowing that doesn’t change Louise’s feelings for Frank; she realizes he is restless and irresponsible and not as ambitious as she and her sisters were brought up to expect, but still she loves him and upon his asking, elopes with him.
Living in San Francisco, where Frank is a sports writer, Louise often finds herself alone due to the irregular hours her husband keeps. Though she tries to encourage Frank to get to work on his novel, he just can’t seem to get his act together long enough to be successful. In due time, telling Louise that he’s the kind of husband who makes people feel sorry for his wife, Frank starts to drink heavily; upset because he knows Louise’s sisters, who have both recently gotten married to financially stable men, have everything, he begins to indulge in self-pity. Though he wants to amount to something…though he longs to be the strong one in their marriage… though he loves his dear wife and yearns to be worthy of her love, in the end, he desires freedom and the excitement around the next corner even more. Therefore, when he hears a group of men talking about the wonders of world travel, he is absolutely certain he has finally discovered the life which will bring his dreams to fruition; so writing a short note to Louise in April 1906, Frank boards a ship and sets sail for the China seas.
While Frank’s ship is sailing away, taking him to that place where he will finally be happy, an earthquake of monumental proportions blasts San Francisco and the wife he left behind. Buildings tumble to the ground…flames erupt heavenward…all the world is chaos. Will Louise survive the devastating destruction of that day? In his wandering will Frank find what he is looking for? Will he ever capture the elusive dream? Or has he, by his inability to appreciate the life he had, put his dreams forever out of reach? Each of those questions will be answered by the end of this enjoyable, interesting well-acted film.
Each of us at some point in our life will find we are kindred spirits with Frank. The hopes and dreams we carry in our hearts call to us loudly, so loudly that they are all we can hear. The longing for better… or more… or bigger… or better… or more exciting consumes us, and if we’re not careful, it can rob us of the good things we already have. While we dream and plan, may we, unlike Frank Medlin, also be happy in the here and now. ♥