|William Holden, Jeanne Crain, and Edmund Gwenn|
Before you know it, Peggy and Jason are turning Professor Barnes’s attic into a very comfortable and functional living space. Even Professor Barnes is amazed at the transformation. Reluctant at first to this “home invasion,” Professor Barnes learns to enjoy sharing his home with the young couple, although living with Peggy can be challenging at times.
What Peggy and Jason don’t know, is that before they moved in, the professor was planning his own suicide. The university forced him to retire years earlier and Barnes thinks his usefulness has come to an end. His wife is deceased and his only son was killed in the First World War. He concludes that he’s lived a good, satisfying life and feels it’s time to exit on his own terms.
|Peggy (Crain, center) and Jason (Holden, right)|
serve Professor Barnes tea in his renovated attic.
At her baby shower, Peggy feels that something is wrong. She goes to the hospital where she miscarries, leaving Jason and Professor Barnes at a loss for words. Jason and the professor walk home from the hospital in silence, grief and disappointment etched on their faces.
Peggy reluctantly announces that she’s moving out to be with Jason in Chicago. Once again, Professor Barnes feels that he has no useful purpose in life. In his despair, he takes an overdose of sleeping pills. When Peggy finds out what he’s done, she forces black coffee down his throat and makes him walk around the house to stay awake. When Jason arrives on the scene and finds out what the professor has done, he gives him a tough-love speech. The speech is effective enough that Professor Barnes decides he really wants to live. In the end, Jason decides that he wants to be a chemistry teacher in spite of it all.
|Holden as Jason Taylor|
Through Seaton’s writing and direction, we see how liberating education, and not just the book kind, can be. The enthusiasm the wives show in Professor Barnes’s philosophy class is inspiring; the joy of learning is obvious and contagious. And what about the joy the instructor expresses? Seaton makes it clear there is wisdom in old age and it should be respected and appreciated, not thrown away or pushed aside.
Apartment for Peggy is a time capsule of what life was like (including the colorful slang of the day) during post-World War II America. It’s funny without being overly cute. It’s sad without being depressing. Seaton manages to capture the entire human experience in a wonderfully entertaining package. It’s a neglected classic that needs to be given its due.
Backstory: Apartment for Peggy was the first movie to actually portray a pregnant woman on screen with a large belly! Prior to this film, women were not pictured on screen in the “family way.”
Apartment for Peggy is available on DVD as part of Twentieth Century Fox’s Cinema Archives releases. The Technicolor Print is adequate, with interior scenes appearing on the dark side and with little contrast. The sound is perfect, but as with all of the on-demand Cinema Archives editions, it has no extras. It’s unfortunate that Fox didn’t think this film was worthy of a restoration with extras, considering the talent involved. It really deserves a better presentation on video.