Cast & Crew
S. Sylvan Simon
Eccentric, bossy spinster Letitia "Tish" Carberry keeps house for her nephew, town newspaper publisher Charles Sands, and looks after Cora Edwards, the orphaned daughter of an old friend. Charlie, who does not realize that Cora has a crush on him, becomes secretly engaged to Katherine "Kit" Bowser, the daughter of Tish's nemesis, Judge Horace Bowser, while Kit's younger brother Ted pines for Cora. To help Cora, Tish arranges for her and Charlie to accompany her and her two spinster friends, Aggie Pilkington and Lizzie Wilkins, on a week-long trip to the country, hoping that a romance will blossom. Unknown to Tish, though, Cora has finally started to return Ted's affection. After a week, Charlie and Cora's relationship has not progressed, so when Tish, Aggie and Lizzie are arrested for trespassing by an over-zealous game warden, Tish happily goes to jail, thinking that a night alone in the cabin will help the romance. Instead, Cora admits to Charlie that she loves Ted and Charlie promises to assume the role of brother if she ever needs him. Some time later, Ted tells Cora that he has been accepted into the Canadian Air Force and proposes. She accepts, but because she is underage, they marry in secret, just before he leaves for Canada. Soon Charlie and Kit marry in a large church service, and when Cora, who misses Ted, cries, Tish thinks that it is because she still loves Charlie. Three months later, Kit has taken over the responsibilities of running the household and Tish feels out of place. She then decides to leave and move into the boardinghouse in which Cora, Aggie and Lizzie now live. After two months, Cora gets a special delivery letter from Ted, saying that he is soon leaving for England but has no money to send for her. That night, when Tish is about to turn over money from the church organ fund to Judge Bowser, she finds a note from Cora saying that she had borrowed $150. Wishing to protect Cora, Tish claims to have gambled the money away and Charlie makes up for the loss. Some months later, in Canada, Cora receives a telegram that Ted was lost at sea and collapses. After more time passes, Tish is summoned by a Canadian doctor, who informs her that Cora died in childbirth and had no identification except a letter addressed to Tish. The baby, who was born prematurely, is now fine, and Tish, thinking that Charlie is the father, says that the father is dead and she is the child's grandmother. After claiming the baby, Tish has Aggie and Lizzie rent a cottage back home. She then tells them that the baby is Cora's and reads the letter to them. Because the wording of Cora's letter seems to imply that Charlie is the father, the women determine to keep the baby's parentage a secret. Unable to think up a good story to explain the baby's presence, Tish claims that the baby is hers, but no one, not even the faithful Charlie, believes her. When the judge reveals that the whole town is laughing at Tish's ridiculous story, he angrily accuses her of insanity and says she should be committed. Charlie refuses to consider that, but at Kit's insistence, agrees to a psychiatric examination to determine what is best for Tish. At a hearing, Tish's attitude merely provokes the psychiatrist, who proclaims that she has a persecution complex. Although he argues for Tish, Charlie is overruled by Judge Bowser, who orders Charlie to place her in a private sanitarium or have the state place her in an institution. After time in the sanitarium, Tish becomes so depressed that even visits from the faithful Aggie and Lizzie cannot raise her spirits. After news that the baby will soon be sent to an orphanage still does not get a reaction from the normally feisty Tish, Aggie and Lizzie go to the judge and tell him that Charlie and Cora are the baby's parents. Charlie says he is not the father, and Kit believes him, but they still do not know who the father is. Charlie then determines to get Tish out of the sanitarium and Kit asks Charlie to bring her home. Just then the judge bursts in with Ted, who had been lost at sea and knew nothing of the baby or Cora's death. Although everyone apologizes to Tish, she is still depressed until Kit reveals that she is expecting a child and Ted, who is enlisting in the U.S. Army, asks Tish to take care of his baby. Now with two babies to care for, Tish takes charge, and becomes her old self again.
S. Sylvan Simon
Gerald Oliver Smith
Robert E. O'connor
St. Luke's Choristers
Edward J. Boyle
Orville O. Dull
Robert J. Kern
Edwin B. Willis
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
The opening title card reads: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents Mary Roberts Rinehart's Tish" and her oncreen writing credit reads: "Founded in part on stories by Mary Roberts Rinehart." The character "Tish" was featured in a number of stories by the popular novelist Rinehart, beginning with the novel Tish (Boston, 1916). Several additional stories featuring "Tish" and her friends "Aggie" and "Lizzie" were published through the 1930s, both as novels and short stories in Saturday Evening Post. According to news items and reviews, Tish was considered as the first in a possible series of films based on Roberts' characters, but no additional films were made. A Hollywood Reporter news item also noted that the film had been in development for more than eight years and had originally been planned as a starring vehicle for Marie Dressler, who died in 1934. Some Hollywood Reporter production charts list William Ferrari as the art director (associate), although only Eddie Imazu is credited onscreen. Spring Byington is included in the cast in a pre-production news item, but she did not appear in the film. A Hollywood Reporter news item includes Robert Wayne in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Hollywood Reporter news items noted that some location shooting was done at Lake Arrowhead, CA.