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,No Sad Songs for Me

No Sad Songs For Me

No Sad Songs for Me (1950), a tearjerker about a wife and mother dying of cancer who encourages her husband's mistress to become a part of the family after her death, was the final film appearance of Margaret Sullavan who had the starring role. Sullavan had been working in the theater and had not appeared in a film since Cry Havoc (1943) seven years earlier. No Sad Songs for Me took almost that long to make it to the screen.

Columbia Pictures had purchased the rights to Ruth Southard's novel of the same name when it was published in 1944, but the project had languished in pre-production with occasional blurbs in the trades. In 1946, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Casey Robinson had been hired to write the screenplay and produce. Three years later, in 1949, a press release named Sam Wood as director and Irene Dunne as the star. Later that year, when the film went into production, Rudolph Maté became the director, the screenplay was assigned to Howard Koch, and Margaret Sullavan was tapped as the star. For a film that took so long to get started, it had a very short production schedule. No Sad Songs for Me was filmed in one month, from October 13 – November 19, 1950, both at the studio and on location in the Los Angeles suburb of Ontario. The cast was rounded out by Wendell Corey as the husband, Viveca Lindfors as the mistress and eleven year-old Natalie Wood as the daughter.

Suzanne Finstad noted in her biography of Wood (Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood) that living in a dysfunctional and often violent home helped her become caught up in "her idealized movie family, where she could pretend to be Polly, the cherished daughter of noble cancer victim Margaret Sullavan, who 'was so into her character that it was a little hard to think of her as Margaret Sullavan.' She made a friend of Ann Doran, a respected thirty-something character actress cast as a socialite, who by coincidence would appear in four of Natalie's next films. [...] The self-supporting Doran was on the same treadmill work-wise as Natalie, going from one supporting part to another with barely a breath between. She gave no thought to whether No Sad Songs for Me would be a success, or that it was the first motion picture about cancer. 'What the story was didn't mean a hoot in hell to me. I was only thinking who I was as a character in relation to the other ones.' "

No Sad Songs for Me was released on April 28, 1950 and was hailed by the critics as Margaret Sullavan's picture. Bosley Crowther in his New York Times review of the film lamented that she had been absent from the screen for so long, "and for that there is no excuse. For plainly Miss Sullavan is someone who can give to a needy role the fullness of personality that will bring it to life and form. Plainly she has the rare capacity to imbue with emotion and warmth a modest creation of fiction which might easily be mawkish and chill. [...] To be sure she had been provided with a very good script by Howard Koch – a script which is not only literate but which protects the situation with high ideals – and Rudolph Maté's direction is crisp and sensitive. And the acting support of her associates – especially of Wendell Corey as the spouse – is of an accomplished order to match that of Miss Sullavan. [...] Not since Bette Davis played Dark Victory [1939] several years ago has a subject of such peculiar anguish been handled so delicately. Now that Miss Sullavan is back among us, with her glowing smile and her melting voice, let's hope that we'll be seeing her often. And let's hope that next time she doesn't die."

Unfortunately, No Sad Songs for Me was Margaret Sullavan's final film. She spent the last ten years of her life in the theater and making the rare television appearance before her death on January 1, 1960.

Producer: Buddy Adler
Director: Rudolph Mate
Screenplay: Howard Koch; Ruth Southard (novel)
Cinematography: Joseph Walker
Art Direction: Cary Odell
Music: George Duning
Film Editing: William Lyon
Cast: Margaret Sullavan (Mary Scott), Wendell Corey (Bradford 'Brad' Scott), Viveca Lindfors (Chris Radna), Natalie Wood (Polly Scott), John McIntire (Dr. Ralph Frene), Ann Doran (Louise Spears), Richard Quine (Brownie), Jeanette Nolan (Mona Frene), Dorothy Tree (Frieda Miles), Raymond Greenleaf (Mr. Caswell), Urylee Leonardos (Flora, the Maid).
BW-89m.

by Lorraine LoBianco

SOURCES
AFI.com
Film review by Bosley Crowther , The New York Times April 28, 1950
Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood by Suzanne FInstad
The Internet Movie Database VIEW TCMDb ENTRY

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