We are rather peeved.
Dear Heart centers around two strangers who happen to stay at the same hotel in New York. Evie Jackson (Page) is a bordering-on-middle-age postmistress from Avalon, OH, attending a national Postmasters’ Conference. Harry Mork (Glenn Ford) from Altoonah, PA, is a middle-aged greeting card salesperson. He’s just been promoted to his company’s marketing department and is in New York to attend business meetings.
As viewers, we don’t immediately warm to Page’s character. She’s too friendly and clingy and, frankly, a bit silly. But her smile is warm and her heart is generous and she has the endearing ability to laugh at herself. Before you know it, you find her utterly charming. So when her long-lost friend meets her for coffee and quickly escapes because she’s “busy”, your heart breaks a little for Page.
She and Ford meet by chance in the crowded hotel restaurant and his first reactions to Page mirror our own. He wants to like her, but her personality is too overwhelming and he finds an excuse to leave. Again, we feel for Page; we see the disappointment, then the resignation on her face. This is how life goes for her.
Ford’s character has more of a complex story. He is engaged to Phyllis (Angela Lansbury), but he’s uncertain about their relationship. We know this by the way he twists the signet ring on his left hand. When he wants people to think he’s married, he turns the signet inward. When he wishes to appear single, he rotates the signet to the outside.
Meanwhile, Ford has met June (Barbara Nichols), a vivacious dyed-blonde woman who sells postcards and magazines at a kiosk in the hotel lobby. He tries to start an affair with her, the results of which are hilariously unsuccessful.
Page observes Ford’s attraction to Nichols, which adds to her loneliness. After all, she is a woman who arranges to have herself paged in a busy lobby because it verifies her existence.
The first half of Dear Heart is a laugh-out-loud comedy; but the last half of movie starts to feel like a sluggish drama – until Lansbury makes her scene-stealing appearance. Her character is everything Page’s is not: a sleek, sophisticated woman in a gorgeous designer suit. She tells Ford she’s counting on him to straighten out her 18 year-old son because, she declares, she “is done with doing.”
But it is with Page that Ford’s character has the most chemistry, and an unlikely romance develops. We see him softening towards her, then truly appreciating her qualities. Ford is extremely likable in this film. He’s a man who can be too smart for his own good, and accepts the inevitable misfortune with a wry sense of humour.
We felt surprisingly weepy at the end of this movie because the outcome of this romance matters – really matters. We do not want Page to go back to Avalon alone, with the added burden of heartbreak.
Dear Heart is a sweet movie with an excellent screenplay by Tad Mosel. He has created a completely plausible situation with quirky characters and very funny lines. You’ll be glad you made the effort to see it.
Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the 1964 Best Actress award went to Julie Andrews for Mary Poppins.
Dear Heart: starring Glenn Ford, Geraldine Page, Angela Lansbury. Written by Tad Mosel. Directed by Delbert Mann. Warner Bros. Pictures, B&W, 1964, 115 mins.