Cast & Crew
Professor Henry Barnes, a widower who has been retired from a Midwestern university for eight years, telephones his close friend and fellow chamber music performer, law professor Edward Bell, and asks him to come see him. Henry explains that he needs help preparing his will as he intends to commit suicide. Although Edward rushes over and tells Henry all the reasons why he should not take his own life, Henry continues to feel he no longer is of any use to society. Edward points out that Henry has a lifetime of knowledge to impart via his writings, but Henry declares that when he completes his latest book in three weeks, he will do away with himself. When Edward relates this to his colleagues and fellow chamber music players, they are horrified. One of them, Philip Conway, a medical doctor, arranges to examine Henry and finds him in excellent health and not depressed or bitter. Henry tells Conway that he had a wonderful marriage and, although their son was lost in the war, has had a full and satisfying life. Henry claims that he has not been sleeping well and asks Conway for sleeping pills, but the doctor gives him only two. Later, while Henry is feeding pigeons in the park, young Peggy Taylor sits down on the bench beside him. She tells him that she and Jason, her husband who is studying chemistry on the G.I. Bill, have been looking for an apartment and are expecting a baby. Henry offers to mention their predicament to Edward, who is also the university housing administrator. After a philosophical conversation with Peggy about the pros and cons of suicide, Henry ponders whether he is really "living now." When Edward reveals that during the war two soldiers were temporarily billeted in Henry's attic, the effervescent and determined Peggy goes to Henry's house and talks him into letting her and Jason move into his attic. The couple causes some havoc in Henry's life, blowing fuses, interfering with his writing and adopting a dog, and Henry finds himself calling Philip for more sleeping pills. Peggy and Jason invite Henry to see what they have done to the attic, and he is amazed by the transformation. Over a cup of tea, Jason tells Henry he wants to be a teacher. Later, Peggy does some household chores for Henry and tells him about the gulf in education between G.I. husbands and wives. Peggy maintains that the wives need overview classes so that they can help their husbands, and has suggested to the university that Henry organize such courses. He protests, saying he wants to finish his book but, a few days later, finds himself in a converted Quonset hut in front of a large group of students' wives presenting a lecture on the basics of philosophy. The class is very successful, and Henry takes a new lease on life. When Jason discovers that Peggy hasn't been taking vitamin pills because they don't have enough money to buy them, he talks about quitting school and getting a job. As Jason is telling his chemistry professor that he is going to have to leave school, he is summoned to the the hospital and learns that Peggy has given birth prematurely and the baby has died. While Jason and Henry walk home, Jason asks him, "Why?" but Henry cannot answer. Later, when Henry visits Peggy in the hospital, he finds her in good spirits and tells her that a life wasn't lost, but merely exchanged, as she has saved him from suicide. Jason then leaves for Chicago to take a job selling cars, intending to send for Peggy later. Henry goes to see him at the used car lot and informs him that he can be reinstated and given a job as a teaching assistant, but Jason feels that a teaching job will not be enough for him. Back home, Henry discovers that Peggy plans to go to live with her sister. Unknown to Henry and Peggy, Jason has returned to take the make-up exams and, with the help of Henry's colleagues, passes all but still has to face chemistry. After Henry grows very despondent because Peggy and Jason are apart, and downs several of Philip's pills, Peggy tells his friends that he has taken a a lot of sleeping pills. The doctor, however, informs them that what he prescribed were not sleeping pills but pills that will merely make him slightly uncomfortable. Meanwhile, Peggy is walking Henry back and forth and filling him full of coffee when Jason comes home. Henry explains that he took the pills because they are leaving him. Jason challenges Henry to pull himself together by saying that he can think of many fellows, including Henry's son, who would like to have had the choice he has now. Moved by Jason's words, Henry gets up and starts walking on his own. Later, Henry changes the living arrangements in the house to give the couple more space. The chamber music group is performing once again in Henry's parlor when Peggy and Jason announce that they are going to try to have another baby.
Betty Ann Lynn
Hal K. Dawson
Robert B. Williams
Michael William Balfe
F. E. Johnston
Dr. W. T. Jones
Charles Le Maire
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Maurice De Packh
John N. Scott
Walter M. Scott
H. S. Thompson
E. Clayton Ward
Darryl F. Zanuck
Apartment for Peggy
Apartment for Peggy opens with Professor Henry Barnes (the great Edmund Gwenn) in rehearsal with other professors who are a small but dedicated group of amateur musicians. They're playing a nice piece, with Barnes on violin, but when they stop and attempt another go at it, Henry says he has to leave. He has things to take care of because he's leaving the college, much to the dismay of his friends. Later, he reveals to one of them that he actually intends to commit suicide.
After his friend tells everyone of Henry's plans, it is demanded that Henry see a doctor, which he does. When the doctor asks why a man in perfect health would want to commit suicide, Henry replies that's exactly the reason he wants to, because he's in perfect health. Why, he asks, should he wait until he's old and sick and praying for death. Why not do it now when he's still in control?
Outside the doctor's office, Henry sits on a bench and Peggy Taylor (Jeanne Crain) grabs the space next to him. First she complains about how tired she is (she's pregnant and has been on her feet all day), then starts quizzing him on who he knows around the college because her husband, Jason, is studying chemistry to be a teacher and they desperately need on-campus housing. Henry doesn't want to talk but the vivacious Peggy won't stop. The talk turns to life and Henry asks her a hypothetical: What if you were old, weren't depressed or despairing, had done everything you set out to do, had nothing more to contribute and wanted to go before you became sickly or demented? Why not kill yourself? Peggy responds anyone who feels that apathetic about it doesn't sound like he's been living at all and you've got to be living first if you're going to die. She recommends Mr. Hypothetical start living first, with a capitol "L" and leaves.
Later, Peggy learns that Henry lives in a house on campus with an empty attic available for occupation. She twists his arm into letting her and Jason stay there and before long they've fixed up the attic, had tea with Henry and become good friends. Due to their age differences, Peggy calls Henry "Pop," the name she gave her grandfather. Henry comes to view Peggy and Jason in a similar way. He lost his own son in World War I and takes on Jason as a son to be proud of, as long as he finishes his schooling and gets his degree. The problem is that Jason needs to earn money and is increasingly tempted to drop out of school and take an open job offer to become a used car salesman instead. When Jason does just that, Henry's heartbroken and so is Peggy.
There are many more surprises to the plot than that, with a few twists and turns along the way. But what stands out about Apartment for Peggy is the issues it grapples with without ever letting any of it stand in the way of the story. Although it deals with many issues, it never highlights them to become an "issue movie." Peggy speaks about having nine children to insure that at least some of them are good and socially conscious so they can have children who are the same in the hopes that eventually racial intolerance will no longer exist. She says all of that in a quick aside at tea without any underlining whatsoever. Later, Henry tells Jason it's tough being a professor and even tougher if you try to inject progressive methods into the mix. Finally, both Henry's apathy towards life and Jason's impatience stem from their traumas of war.
That all of this is presented without ever being emphasized is a real credit to writer-director George Seaton. He manages to keep all of it suspended on a bubble of cozy New England positive thinking without popping it once. Edmund Gwenn proves once again that he was an actor of immense gifts and Seaton knew it. He had directed Gwenn to an Oscar® for Best Supporting Actor in the holiday classic, Miracle on 34th Street (1947), a movie Seaton also wrote.
William Holden had spent nine long years since his breakout role in Golden Boy (1939) seeing stardom elude him. He is excellent as always (Holden could never not be excellent) but his role is more or less there for both Gwenn and Crain to play off of, not engage with. In just two years, Sunset Boulevard (1950) would finally put Holden into the limelight he so richly deserved.
Jeanne Crain is the real core of the movie. Her performance as Peggy is at once breathtaking and immediately relatable as well. Her plucky nature never grates or irritates and she plays the difficult emotional scenes with grace and style. It's a terrific performance and signaled that Crain was an actress to watch. And Apartment for Peggy remains a movie to watch, and watch again.
By Greg Ferrara
Apartment for Peggy
A working title of the film was Apartment for Susie. According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department and the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the studio purchased rights to Faith Baldwin's novelette in April 1947 for $10,000. Exteriors were shot at the University of Nevada, in Reno, in early February 1948. The legal records suggest that the production May have taken a hiatus for two to three weeks in January. Griff Barnett replaced Lee J. Cobb in the role of "Dr. Philip Conway."
Sequences featuring Ray Walker as the manager of the used car lot and Crystal Reeves as a librarian appear to have been shot but were eliminated from the final film. For the production, Mozart's Clarinet Quintet was rearranged for a sextet by Edward Powell and Urban Thielman, with a flute playing the clarinet part. A radio adaptation of the screenplay was performed twice on Lux Radio Theatre, first on February 28, 1949 with Jeanne Crain, William Holden and Edmund Gwenn, and on December 4, 1950 with Crain and William Lundigan. Versions were also broadcast on the Screen Directors' Playhouse on September 2, 1949 and on Screen Guild Players on May 31, 1951.