And we have our candidate for worst movie poster of 1951.
When I got I'll Never Forget You from Netflix this weekend, I snarkily described it to a friend before watching it as "Some stupid Tyrone Power movie where he time travels back to the 18th century. I don't even remember why I put it on my list."
So I sat down to watch it, preparing to sneer at what I presumed would be an overstuffed, 1951 romance, starring a way past his prime Power. But no matter how much I wanted to make fun of it, to be cynical, I just couldn't.
The plot: Power plays Peter Standish, an American nuclear physicist working in London who feels out of place in the 20th century. He lives in an 18th c. house given to him by a relative and spends his time obsessively reading the letters and diaries of family members who lived there 200 years ago. He's particularly fascinated by story of an American cousin with his name who arrived in 1784 to marry one of the girls in the family but who acts so strangely, claiming he's from the future, that he's nearly sent to an asylum. This convinces Standish that it's his fate to be transported back in time and take the place of his ancestor, which is fine with him as he's idealized 18th c. life.
Indeed the switch does take place and he finds himself back in 1784, meeting his family, prospective fiancee, and to his surprise, a sister of hers who wasn't mentioned in any of the letters. Needless to say, he falls in love with the mysterious sister (Ann Blyth). He also discovers life in the 18th century isn't quite what he thought--there's poverty, violence, and cruelty all around him (his character had gone to MIT, where history was apparently not a priority). He rents a basement and gets to work trying to quickly invent the things that will make their lives better--light bulbs, steamships, cures for illnesses. Meanwhile, no matter how hard he tries, his conversation puts people off. He talks about events that haven't happened yet, and talks about people "as if they were dead," as the Duchess of Devonshire puts it when they meet (luckily he doesn't tell Dr. Johnson at the same party that he shouldn't be in London but deathly ill in Oxford...but we'll forgive minor historical details. By Hollywood standards this movie is reasonably good). However, he doesn't want to leave because of Helen, the girl he's in love with. But the threats of the asylum close in--his strange talk, the discovery of his workshop, and the jealousy of Helen's intended are enough to get him committed. Helen hides a cross for him in a drawer in a piece of furniture in the house and tells him to look for it if he makes it back to the future. She also tells him where she plans to be buried (cheerful girl).
Standish is whisked back to the 20th century just in time, where he's greeted by a relieved colleague who tells him that he's been in a state of nervous exhaustion for a few weeks, raving about being from a different time. Said colleague's sister Martha is with him, and oh, she looks exactly like Helen! Standish runs upstairs and finds the cross where Helen had left it, then runs out to find her gravestone. It's also where she had said it would be, and it shows that she died not long after he had left her in 1784. After he reads this, Standish turns around and sees Martha. They exchange a meaningful look...
I know, it probably sounds silly. But I found it affecting nonetheless. It's a good looking production, and while it does have some unintended laughs, it still runs fairly smoothly. Power was always a good actor when he was given a chance--which was rare--and he shows sparks of that here.
I think, though, what got me is just the idea of time travel. What would it be like to live in another time? What would I be like? What would be different? Would I be happy? People often think if they could live in another time--the past or the future--life would be simpler, the world would be better, they would be happier. But it's never true--whatever your problems are in your own time will most likely still be problems in another. It's always something to wonder about, though--another world, another time, another chance to get it all right; maybe this time will be my time. But it never is.
I wanted for some reason to be cynical, to be mean when watching I'll Never Forget You. But I wasn't able to be that way, and I don't know if that was the movie so much as me and my mood. I kept telling myself this isn't that good, you should feel silly liking this. But I did like it. Guilty as charged--I guess I am a big softy romantic after all.