Cast & Crew
After a fire destroys a Catholic orphanage in the Canadian province of Quebec, the sisters find little Patsy hiding in the woods with her pet goldfish. Patsy tearfully explains that she accidentally started the fire when she awoke from a nightmare and knocked over a lantern, and is comforted by the sympathetic Sister Josephine. Without a dwelling that will accommodate all the orphans, the sisters and their charges board a train and travel the dominion seeking homes for some of the children. They stop in the drought-ravaged province of Scourie, Ontario, and Father Reilly, the local priest, informs Sister Josephine that most of the residents are Protestant. When the orphanage bully, Edward, threatens her goldfish, Patsy wanders to a nearby lake and is about to release her beloved pet when she is intercepted by Victoria McChesney, wife of the local shopkeeper and mayor. Drawn to the sweet-natured Patsy, the childless Victoria takes the girl to her husband Patrick's general store and suggests that they adopt her. However, Patrick, a staunch Protestant royalist, insists that Patsy be sent on her way. Even though Victoria tries to make Patsy miss her train, they reach the station just in time, prompting Victoria to tell Sister Josephine she wants to adopt the little girl. Father Reilly and some townspeople object because Victoria, who is from Northern Ireland, is Protestant, but Victoria promises that Patsy will be raised in the Catholic faith. That evening, when Patrick comes home from work, he is surprised to find Patsy there, but glumly tries to adjust to the situation. Soon after, Edward is adopted by the Catholic Swazey family, and word gets out that the McChesneys have adopted a Catholic child. Newspaper editor B. G. Belney, Victoria's former suitor and Patrick's opponent in the upcoming parliamentary election, is delighted by the news. Meanwhile, on Patsy's first day of school, she is shocked to find the mean-spirited Edward in her class. The next day, while Patrick is out of town, the paper runs a front-page editorial criticizing the McChesneys and alleging that the adoption was an attempt on Patrick's part to curry political favor with Catholics. Furious, Victoria finds Belney at the barber shop and pelts him with a wet towel. That afternoon, Patsy comes home in tears because of Edward's insulting remarks about her illegitimacy, but Victoria assures the child that her parents were not bad people. The controversy over the adoption continues, boding ill for Patrick's political career, and the townspeople begin boycotting his store. One night, Patrick proposes to Victoria that they send Patsy away, unaware that the child is listening to their conversation from the stairs. Meanwhile, a terrible blaze breaks out at the schoolhouse, and the firemen detect evidence of arson. A hearing is held to discuss the matter, and, as Edward had already spread the news about Patsy's role in the orphanage fire, suspicion falls on her. Victoria announces that she and her husband had already decided to return Patsy to church authorities, due to business and political pressure. Patrick then surprises Victoria by standing up for his adopted daughter and resigning his public office. The McChesneys happily return home, but are horrified to discover that Patsy is gone. While a search party frantically looks for Patsy in a violent rainstorm, Father Reilly goes to the newspaper office and shows Belney a letter in which Edward confesses to burning down the school while attempting to start a small fire to get Patsy in trouble. Meanwhile, in the woods, Patsy encounters Edward, who has also run away, and the children set off on foot for Manitoba. The next morning, Victoria finds Patsy's goldfish and necklace by the bridge and breaks down, assuming the worst. Just then, she hears a sneeze and finds Patsy and Edward under an overturned canoe. Patrick tells Patsy how much he wants to be her father, and both children are reunited with their families.
Vicki Joy Ereutzer
Gary Lee Jackson
A. Arnold Gillespie
Edwin H. Knopf
Wade B. Rubottom
Edwin B. Willis
Scandal at Scourie
In this role, Garson gets to recall the self-sacrificing mom of her Oscar®-winning Mrs. Miniver (1942), bolstered by the appearance here of her co-star from the earlier picture, Walter Pidgeon. This was their eighth and final film together (nine, if you count their guest-star cameos in The Youngest Profession, 1943). Pidgeon had stood by her side as Garson defied New York society snobbery in Mrs. Parkington (1944), the scientific community in Madame Curie (1943), competition from a ravishing 16-year-old Elizabeth Taylor in Julia Misbehaves (1948), the entire bloody German war machine in Miniver, and post-war rationing in its sequel, The Miniver Story (1950). Once again playing her husband, Pidgeon learns to give up his ambitions for Garson's higher ideals and her determination to do right by an unwanted child, much as she had done for other orphans in their earlier vehicle Blossoms in the Dust (1941). At least this time he is finally rewarded with a double bed to share.
In Blossoms, Garson had to contend with negative attitudes toward illegitimate children. Some of that surfaces here, too, but the real issue is religious intolerance, apparently still so strong in Canada at the time that Pidgeon's political opponents could use it against him and spark talk that the only reason he and his wife adopted a Catholic girl from Quebec was to curry favor with Catholic voters. According to information in the film's file in the collection of the Production Code Administration (the industry's self-censorship arm), there was much concern that the script portrayed the Catholics much more sympathetically than the Protestants. Without blatantly emphasizing ethnicity, the story also hinges on the tensions between French-speaking Quebec and the majority English-speaking provinces.
The working titles of this film--arguably even worse than the final release title they gave it--were "My Mother and Mr. McChesney" and "Vicki." It was directed by Jean Negulesco, on loan to MGM from Twentieth Century-Fox, where he had just completed Titanic (1953) and where he would return after this picture to direct Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall in the glossy comedy How to Marry a Millionaire (1953).
The troubled orphan is played by Donna Corcoran, part of a dynasty of child actors that also included sister Noreen (teen star of the TV series Bachelor Father) and brothers Hugh, Brian, Kevin (Moochie on TVs The Adventures of Spin and Marty), and the baby of the family, Kelly, who died young in 2002. Donna earlier appeared as the unfortunate girl under the "care" of psychotic babysitter Marilyn Monroe in Don't Bother to Knock (1952). Their father was for several years the chief of maintenance at MGM.
Despite the word "scandal" in the title, the picture, shot on location in Canada, was something any parent could take their child to see, a fact MGM exploited in its marketing of it as a "warm and wonderful" family film. In a year that also saw such adult releases as From Here to Eternity, Stalag 17, and The Wild One (all 1953), the gentle sentimentality of Scandal at Scourie got lost in the crowd. Garson's tenure at MGM, where she had racked up an impressive six Academy Award nominations the decade before, was over within the year. She would soon turn her focus to a successful stage and television career, making only six more theatrical features after this until her death in 1996 at the age of 91.
Director: Jean Negulesco
Producer: Edwin H. Knopf
Screenplay: Norman Corwin, Leonard Spigelgass, Karl Tunberg, based on the story "Good Boy" by Mary McSherry
Cinematography: Robert H. Planck
Editing: Ferris Webster
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Wade B. Rubottom
Cast: Greer Garson (Victoria McChesney), Walter Pidgeon (Patrick McChesney), Agnes Moorehead (Sister Josephine), Donna Corcoran (Patsy), Arthur Shields (Father Riley).
by Rob Nixon
Scandal at Scourie
The working titles of this film were My Mother and Mr. McChesney and Vicki. The order of the cast in the end credits differs slightly from the that of the opening credits. According to a pre-production item in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column, French actress Ketti Gallian auditioned for the role of a nun, and a July 23, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Earl Lee to the cast. Neither actor's appearance in the final film has been confirmed, however. Director Jean Negulesco was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for this film.
According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA was concerned that in dealing with the subject of religious intolerance, the script portrayed the Catholics much more sympathetically than the Protestants. Scandal at Scourie was the last film in which Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon appeared together. The popular screen team had co-starred in eight previous M-G-M films, most notably Mrs. Miniver and Madame Curie.