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Darling, How Could You!

Darling, How Could You!(1951)

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In turn-of-the-century New York, housekeeper Fanny panics when she realizes that she accidentally sent her charges, teenager Amy Grey and her little brother Cosmo, to see the adult play The Reckless Mrs. Rossiter instead of Peter Pan . While Fanny races to the theater, Amy and Cosmo enjoy watching the complicated lives of the play's worldly characters. Amy, in particular, is enthralled by the central conflict, which revolves around a cad, an unfaithful wife, her angry husband and her self-sacrificing younger sister. After Amy declares to her befuddled brother that she has now experienced the "seamy side of life," Fanny shows up and makes them promise not to reveal anything about their adventure. Once at home, Amy and Cosmo, who prefers to be called Charles, learn that their parents, Alice and Robert, are returning from the Panama Canal, where Robert has been working as a doctor. Although they have a one-year-old sister, Molly, Amy and Cosmo have not seen their parents for many years, having been cared for by Robert's mother until her recent death, but conclude that they must be quite old. On the New York-bound ship, meanwhile, the youthful, flirtatious Alice reassures Robert that their children will accept them without hesitation. Upon docking, Robert and Alice try to find Amy and Cosmo, but as they have only a vague memory of their children and the children are searching for an old couple, the four fail to meet. Robert and Alice go home, thinking Amy and Cosmo are there, and soon are reunited with Molly, whom they sent home as a baby. Molly's devoted nurse resents Alice's return and warns Alice not to disturb the sleeping baby. Overcome with maternal feelings, Alice cannot resist picking Molly up and makes her cry. Robert, however, enchants Molly. Soon after, Cosmo returns and quickly warms up to his father, who impresses him by making friends with his dog. Alice, on the other hand, frightens the dog and terrifies Cosmo with her gushing enthusiasm. Robert counsels Alice to be more reserved with Amy, and when Amy bursts in, Alice barely acknowledges her. Amy is disappointed by her mother's seeming indifference and bristles when she suggests that she is not yet a woman. Amy then shocks Alice by announcing that she has experienced the "seamy side" but has sworn an oath not to speak about it. Later, during dinner, Robert explains to the children that Alice stayed with him in Panama only because he needed her, but they remain cool toward her. Amy then answers a phone call from Dr. Steve Clark, who asks for Alice, a longtime friend. Amy eavesdrops on the conversation and becomes suspicious. The next morning, Alice learns that all of her children have left the house and goes to Washington Square to look for them. After running into the nurse with Molly, Alice insists on pushing the baby's carriage home and finally makes peace with the nurse. Later, Amy and Cosmo come home and spy their mother visiting with Steve. When she hears Steve begging Alice to see him that night, Amy assumes that her mother is planning a tryst. Robert then reveals that he is going to a meeting that evening, reinforcing Amy's suspicions. Recalling the action of The Reckless Mrs. Rossiter , Amy devises a scheme to "save" her mother and instructs Cosmo to distract Alice long enough to delay her departure. Amy then dons one of Alice's evening dresses and gloves and races to Steve's boardinghouse. Without revealing her identity, Amy beseeches Steve to abandon his affair and demands that he return her mother's letters. Though bemused, Steve goes along with her histrionics, but when Robert, who had planned to join Alice after his meeting, shows up, Steve shoves Amy into a closet to avoid any appearance of scandal. Amy thinks that her father has come to confront Alice and Robert and eavesdrops from the closet. Robert then finds a glove dropped by Amy and teases Steve, who admits that an older woman may be in love with him. After Alice arrives and opens the closet, she is stunned to see Amy and sends Robert out of the room on a pretext. She yanks Amy, who she believes is being romanced by Steve, out of the closet and insists that she leave, but Amy refuses. Amy then shows herself to Robert and Steve, who conclude that Alice must be the older woman in question. Now jealous, Robert challenges Steve to a fight, while Alice hails a carriage to take Amy home. On the way, Amy confides in Alice about the play, and Alice finally understands what her daughter has done. Alice goes along with Amy's misconceptions and promises to confess her "sin" to Robert. Steve and Robert, meanwhile, abandon their fight, and Steve insists that he is not in love with Alice. Instead of being relieved, Robert is insulted by Steve's lack of interest in Alice, and the two resume fighting. Finally, Robert and Steve return to the Grey house, where Alice informs Steve in front of Amy and Robert that their affair must end. Once alone with Robert, Alice laughingly tells her husband all. Although Robert asks Alice to end her ruse, Alice says that she must continue playing along until she has completely won over Amy. After Amy and Cosmo rush in to "protect" their mother from Robert's presumed wrath, Alice realizes that she has been fully accepted and declares to Robert that she is happily settling down with her perfect family.