“And one day you'll wish with all your heart you'd never come to Dragonwyck!”
In my course of reading and movie watching I have come across an array of gothic novels. These include Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and My Cousin Rachel all four in book and film form. My most recent gothic film has been Dragonwyck starring Gene Tierney and Vincent Price. Although not the strongest out of the other stories, Dragonwyck had its good moments but was mostly saved because of the acting by the leads.
Miranda Welles (Tierney) has lived a somewhat sheltered life on a New England farm. She yearns to get away and see the world. One day a letter arrives for her mother from a distant half cousin named Nicholas Van Ryn (Price) asking if one of her daughters could come live in home to take care of his daughter. Miranda jumps at the opportunity she begs and pleads with her mother and father. Eventually they give in and let her go.
She and her father meet Nicholas for the first time at a hotel in New York City. He is a tall handsome young man. Her father keeps harping on the fact that he is young but Nicholas assures him that he is very capable. Just from seeing Dragonwyck from a riverboat Miranda is taken by it. She cannot believe her eyes at how beautiful it is.
At the house Miranda meets Joanna Van Ryn and Katrine the daughter. The wife and daughter are very odd from the outset. Joanna is very fond of eating and Katrine at one time asks Miranda what her own father is like. A few months go by and Joanna becomes sick. Nicholas cannot stand that she is sick and even yells at her before the doctor comes in. After the doctor enters the room Nicholas is nothing but sweet to his wife and even brings in an oleander plant. Not long later Joanna dies.
Miranda leaves Dragonwyck for her home after Joanna’s death. At home she is lovesick her mother knows what is wrong but her father does not understand why she is so down. Nicholas comes to the house looking for her and asks her to marry him. Their life together goes very well until they have a son and he dies from a bad heart. Nicholas always wanted a son to carry on the family name and tradition. He goes into a very dark place to the point where Miranda’s maid does not trust him and thinks him evil. Nicholas’s insanity brings about his just end.
By the time Miranda arrived at the house I felt like I was watching Rebecca. Just like Rebecca as soon as Miranda gets to the house strange things begin to happen and the house feels haunted by ill feelings and death. I felt a bit board with the plot. I felt like I had seen and read this plot over and over again that the film became a little boring. As I said at the beginning Gene Tierney and Vincent Price are solely responsible for saving this film. They were incredible together and as individual actors. The moment you lay eyes on Gene Tierney you are hooked right, the woman was so outrageously beautiful. There is one scene where she is sitting on the steps with the daughter and I could not get over how gorgeous she was. I think this is one of Tierney’s best acted films she was so good. I have yet to see one of her later 1940s films where she does not overact. Her facial expressions were fantastic. The mood and tone of the film change very drastically throughout the story and you can see Tierney excellently adapting to each change. I can go on and on about Gene Tierney but I cannot find the words to describe what I want to say she was just amazing. Vincent Price was great. You can tell he was a theater actor by the way he moved and the way he swung his emotions around in several scenes. He seemed to always come so close to overacting but he never did. Just by the way Price carried himself you do not trust this character from the moment he is introduced, we are meant to fall for him and be charmed by him just like Miranda but we can also see and sense something underneath him that we cannot trust him. He and Gene Tierney made a great couple. They seem like such an odd pairing but they just worked so well.
The story of Dragonwyck is not one I particularly like because I have read or seen it countless times but the atmosphere, direction, and acting really hold your attention. I have to say I am on the fence with how I really feel about the film- it was not bad but I did not love it. Dragonwyck is definitely worth seeing for Gene Tierney’s and Vincent Price’s performances.