powered by AFI
Former stage actress Marjorie Main had been playing supporting roles in films for a decade when she finally got a starring role and was billed above the title in Tish (1942). Based on the character from the Mary Roberts Rinehart stories of the same name, Tish is Miss Letitia Carberry, played by Main, a sixtyish spinster who meddles in the lives of her small-town neighbors. Along with her fellow busybodies Aggie Pilkington (Zasu Pitts) and Lizzie Wilkins (Aline MacMahon), Tish sets out to play matchmaker to various attractive young people, who have their own romantic ideas. The film takes various melodramatic turns, and Tish adds to the confusion, before all the misunderstandings are sorted out to everyone's satisfaction.
Though Rinehart's stories were set in the early 20th century, the film was updated to modern times, perhaps for the purpose of adding a wartime subplot. But the most appealing parts of the film are the scenes with Main, Pitts and MacMahon. Tish roller skates, swears, and goes camping and fishing with her cronies, thoroughly enjoying life. Also enjoyable are performances by several excellent character actors, including Guy Kibbee as Tish's nemesis, Judge Bowser, and others whose faces you might recognize even if you don't know their names, such as Al Shean as Reverend Ostermaier, and Ruby Dandridge, mother of Dorothy Dandridge, who plays Tish's maid.
Because Tish was one of MGM's "B" movies, which the studio used as a training ground for new young talent, it also features some attractive younger players, including Virginia Grey and Susan Peters. As Variety noted, "The Misses Grey and Peters indicate capabilities for better-written parts. They are nifty-looking femmes." Peters had been playing bit parts for two years, and the same year she appeared in Tish, she would get her break with an important role in an "A" picture, Random Harvest (1942). Peters and her Tish co-star Richard Quine would marry the following year. But her career was cut short when she was paralyzed in a hunting accident in 1945. She died in 1952 at the age of 31.
MGM intended Tish to be the first of a "B" movie series but critics lambasted it, and audiences stayed away. The Variety critic called it "A low-grade B, poorly written and directed" by Sylvan Simon, and produced by the unfortunately-named Orville O. Dull. "Heaven help the customers if Metro intends to start a series with it!" wrote Bosley Crowther of the New York Times. The series never happened.
None of the actors suffered from their association with Tish. Main, Pitts, and MacMahon continued to provide reliable character performances for a decade or more, and so did some of the younger actors. Because of a dispute between MGM and the Rinehart estate, the film was not seen for many years. So Tish is something of a rediscovery. It's a pleasure to watch three old pros get a chance to shine in leading roles, and to see one of the few performances by the beautiful and tragic Susan Peters.
Producer: Orville O. Dull
Director: S. Sylvan Simon
Screenplay: Harry Ruskin (screenplay); Annalee Whitmore Jacoby, Tom Seller (adaptation); Mary Roberts Rinehart (stories)
Cinematography: Paul Vogel
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: David Snell; Daniele Amfitheatrof (uncredited)
Film Editing: Robert J. Kern
Cast: Marjorie Main (Tish), Zasu Pitts (Aggie), Aline MacMahon (Lizzie), Susan Peters (Cora), Lee Bowman (Charlie), Guy Kibbee (Judge Horace Bowser), Virginia Grey (Kit), Richard Quine (Ted).
by Margarita Landazuri