Lydia is a 1941 drama film, directed by Julien Duvivier. It stars Merle Oberon as Lydia MacMillan, a woman whose life is seen from her spoiled, immature youth through bitter and resentful middle years, until at last she is old and accepting. It is a remake of Duvivier's Un carnet de bal (1937), which starred Marie Bell as the leading character.
|Directed by||Julien Duvivier|
|Produced by||Alexander Korda|
|Written by||Leslie Bush-Fekete|
|Screenplay by||Ben Hecht|
André De Toth (uncredited)
|Based on||Story: Un Carnet de Bal|
Edna May Oliver
|Music by||Miklós Rózsa|
|Edited by||William Hornbeck|
Alexander Korda Films
|Distributed by||United Artists (UK/US)|
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An elderly woman named Lydia Macmillan (Merle Oberon), who is running a children's home, gets an unexpected visit from a long lost acquaintance, Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick (Joseph Cotten). They haven't seen each other for forty years, when they were young and in love. The story of their lives unfold as they remember the past with great fondness.
Lydia remembers her three lovers as a young woman. First there was Bob Willard (George Reeves), a football quarterback. Then there was Frank Audry (Hans Jaray), who was a musician. The third, Richard Mason (Alan Marshal), was an adventurous traveler. Lydia and Michael decide to have tea together, but when she arrives at his home, she finds both Bob and Frank there waiting for her.
It turns out all of the men have proposed to Lydia at one time in their life, and she has turned them all down. The topic of their conversation now at their reunion is her reason for rejecting them. Lydia tells them that she has only truly loved one man in her life, which is adventurer Richard Mason.
Lydia starts telling her story to the men, beginning when she met Michael in Boston in 1897. At the time Lydia was living with her rich grandmother Sarah (Edna May Oliver). Before an upcoming ball, Lydia and her grandmother argue about the dress but are interrupted when the family butler presents his son Michael, who has just graduated from medical school.
The grandmother instantly takes a liking to the boy, and he is put on staff as the family physician. Lydia persuades the young man to accompany her to the ball, but he soon discovers that Lydia is in love with a footballer by the name of Bob Willard. However, not long after the ball, grandmother meets Bob and wants Lydia to break up with him, mainly because of his ill and drunken manners.
Lydia plans to elope with Bob and tries to involve Michael in her scheme. Instead of helping he sees to it that she cannot go through with marrying Bob in a nearby town. The disappointed couple have to return to Boston, and split up after a quarrel at the hotel where they have their "wedding" dinner.
Elderly Bob interrupts Lydia's story by saying how much he has regretted his actions that night for the last forty years. Lydia goes on to describe how she met Richard Mason. She was accompanying Michael at the docks to say goodbye as he was shipping out to fight in the Spanish–American War.
She had met Richard once before, on the night of her "wedding day", but now she met him again at the docks, and recognized the handsome man whom she didn't know the name of.
But it was a poor blind boy named Johnny Billy Roy who changed the course of her life that day. He made her focus her efforts to helping the less fortunate and start a school for unfortunate blind children. The schools success attracted the attention of a pianist named Frank Audry, who was in fact blind himself.
Frank suggested to Lydia that he could teach music at the school and was hired immediately. Soon, he fell in love with her but she still insisted on not marrying to not become dependent on a man, and continue her work.
It was not until she met Richard once again at a ball that she changed her mind about sharing her life with a man. Lydia told her grandmother that she had business in Boston, and went to see Richard in secret. They went to her hometown by the coast and spent two wonderful weeks together. When it was over, Richard departed without notice. He left Lydia a note, explaining that he had to settle the matter of another woman that already had a claim to him. He had enclosed a wedding ring in the note and promised to send her another ring in each letter until they could be together again.
Lydia waits for Richard's return and has gives up hope when she receives a ring, sent by mail, and a note where he asks her to meet him at the altar in a Boston church on New Year's Eve.
Expectantly, Lydia goes to the church and waits until she realizes he is not coming. She returns to her home and spends months in disappointment. She never tells anyone about what happened. In the meantime, Frank quits his teaching job at the school and leaves. Michael asks Lydia to marry him, despite knowing that she most certainly doesn't love him. Lydia accepts, in need of stability in her life.
Unfortunately their union is tainted by the fact that the grandmother dies while toasting for their well-being, and Lydia breaks off the engagement. She travels to her own hometown to get over her love for him but doesn't succeed. She decides to devote her life to helping the blind children and gives up hope of love and marriage.
Just as the elderly Lydia finishes her story, a butler calls out that Captain Richard Mason has arrived to the building. To Lydia's disappointment, he doesn't recognize nor remember her at all. Bitterly, Lydia utters that none of the men in her life never knew her properly. Michael asks her who the real Lydia was, and she replies that there was never only one true Lydia; she was a different person to everyone who met her.
- Merle Oberon as Lydia MacMillan
- Joseph Cotten as Michael Fitzpatrick
- Hans Jaray as Frank Andry
- Alan Marshal as Richard Mason
- Edna May Oliver as Sarah MacMillan
- George Reeves as Bob Willard
- John Halliday as Fitzpatrick
- Sara Allgood as Mary, Johnny's mother
- Billy Roy as Johnny
- Frank Conlan as Old Ned
- Tyler Brooke as Vaudeville Singer (uncredited)
- Harry Cording as Hotel House Detective (uncredited)
- Hal K. Dawson as Hotel Desk Clerk (uncredited)
- Jesse Graves as Servant (uncredited)
- Payne B. Johnson as Boy (uncredited)
- Eva Lee Kuney as Little Blind Girl (uncredited)
- Betta St. John as Orphan (uncredited)
- Edwin Stanley as Man on Podium (uncredited)
- Pierre Watkin as Speaker (uncredited)
The film was only a moderate success at the box office.