Owner of a Lonely Heart
When "None But the Lonely Heart" was released audiences didn't like it for a variety of reasons and I agree with some especially in the fact this story of a young man forced to reassess his life is drawn out and slow. But the irony is that one of the problems was the casting of Cary Grant because "None But the Lonely Heart" is a depressing drama rather than some light hearted romantic comedy and it sees Grant shed his usually persona to deliver a performance closer to his roots. Audiences struggled to accept Grant in the very different role yet in many ways it was his finest performance, delivering a character which was real and he worked so brilliantly with Ethel Barrymore as well as all the cast who as a collective are the reason why "None But the Lonely Heart" remains worth watching.
Ernie Mott (Cary Grant - The Philadelphia Story) is a free spirit, a young man who despises the shackles of life and spends his time looking for peace and quiet wandering around England but all that changes on a rare return to London and his Ma (Ethel Barrymore). It doesn't take long for Ernie and Ma to start arguing as whilst she loves her son she is tired of his disappearing acts and just as Ernie is about to clear off again he discovers that Ma is dying from cancer and decides to stick around to make up for all the heartache he has caused her. It also means that Ernie can see Ada (June Duprez) some more, a young woman he met in an arcade but with that comes problems as she is the former wife of a small time hood who doesn't want her to be with anyone else. It forces Ernie to reassess his life especially as he finds himself doing a job which goes against everything he believes.
From a storyline point of view "None But the Lonely Heart" could be interesting with this drama about a man having to reassess his life when he learns his mother has cancer. It could show the conflict he finds in being tied down and having to work a job making money off of the poor which he despises doing. And the thing is that is does show this but because Clifford Odets who not only wrote the screenplay but also directed the movie goes about it in such a slow, long winded way that it becomes a slog. In fact it becomes frustrating because you get a sense that there is a great drama in there but because everything is drawn out it makes it hard to get into.
The knock on effect of the storyline being hard to get into is that the entertainment rests on the actors to deliver interesting characters and thank goodness they do. Now the character of Ernie Mott is as far away from a typical Cary Grant character you could have got, he is basically a regular guy, not suave or sophisticated or a ladies man just a guy on the street who wants his life to be one thing but is stuck in a world where it can't be. In many ways the character of Ernie is more close to home to Grant than those dappers he would play because Ernie would have been a guy Grant would have known growing up in England. And it is such a wonderful performance from Grant full of shades from being a cheeky son one minute to a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders the next. It is one of Grant's greatest performances and it is a shame that the movie itself doesn't work.
Less surprising is the fact that Ethel Barrymore's performance as his Ma is good because it is what you expect but the chemistry between Barrymore and Grant is brilliant and every single scene they share be it one of love or one of anger is great. Barrymore's performance is not the only good one and Barry Fitzgerald as Ernie's friend Henry is just as good as is June Duprez as love interest Ada, delivering as many shades to her character as that of Grant's. It does end up that the performances in "None But the Lonely Heart" are superior to the story and the real reason to watch.
What this all boils down to is that "None But the Lonely Heart" could have been a great movie if the storyline hadn't been so slow going and drawn out. And it is a shame because "None But the Lonely Heart" features one of Cary Grant's best if not the best performance in a long career dominated by lighter movies.