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Dorothy McGuire shines in Invitation (1952), a soapy tearjerker in which her emotionally fragile character comes to realize that her husband of less than a year (Van Johnson) only married her because her doting father (Louis Calhern) paid him to do so. Calhern had concocted the scheme in order to give his daughter a final year of happiness, as he knew that she has a medical condition which will eventually prove fatal. Johnson, however, claims to now really be in love with her...
McGuire's reactions form the emotional thrust of the movie, and she does a fine job with the contrived material. The underrated actress, nominated for an Oscar® for Gentleman's Agreement (1947), had recently completed I Want You (1951) and would soon star in Three Coins in the Fountain (1954).
There were some interesting talents behind the camera as well. Screenwriter Paul Osborn also claimed Cry Havoc (1943), East of Eden (1955) and South Pacific (1958) on his resume, and for Invitation he adapted a story by Jerome Weidman, who had previously written the novel on which House of Strangers (1949) was based. He would later win the Pulitzer Prize for his Broadway musical Fiorello.
Gottfried Reinhardt made his directing debut here, but in truth he had a deep background in the business. His father was Max Reinhardt, the famous German theatrical producer/director. Gottfried started his own career as an actor in Germany before working in Hollywood as an assistant to Ernst Lubitsch and then Walter Wanger. He wrote screenplays including the story for The Great Waltz (1938), produced such films as The Great Sinner (1949) and The Red Badge of Courage (1951), and directed Invitation, two segments in The Story of Three Loves (1953), and Betrayed (1954), before returning to Germany for most of the remainder of his career. The Kirk Douglas-starring Town Without Pity (1961) stands as his most notable later film.
The critics generally approved of Invitation. The New York Times found it strained yet moving, and Film Daily called it "an appealing drama, tastefully handled... Smartly produced... A definite and strong slant for mature audiences."
The piano theme by Bronislau Kaper became a hit and was recycled from Kaper's earlier A Life of Her Own (1950) score.
Producer: Lawrence Weingarten
Director: Gottfried Reinhardt
Screenplay: Paul Osborn; Jerome Weidman (story)
Cinematography: Ray June
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons and Urie McCleary
Music: Bronislau Kaper
Film Editing: George Boemler
Cast: Van Johnson (Daniel I. 'Dan' Pierce), Dorothy McGuire (Ellen Barker Pierce), Ruth Roman (Maud Redwick), Louis Calhern (Simon Bowker), Ray Collins (Dr. Warren Pritchard)
BW-85m. Closed captioning.
by Jeremy Arnold