At the beginning the film looks like it’s going to unfold like a very simple love triangle from the 1930s. Sullavan and Walter Pidgeon are romantically attached until she meets a young naïve soldier (Stewart). Trying desperately to impress his friends he tells them she is his girlfriend and out of sympathy she plays the game. What unfolds is a truly unusually love triangle – something that reminded me of “The Wings of Dove” (the film, as I never read the book).
I was pleasantly surprised by the film’s ending, and in retrospect I think it far more realistic than I would expect for the period. Frankly, I think had Borzage directed it he wouldn’t have made it the same. Another happy surprise was Walter Pidgeon’s performance. I am used to see him as either the flat second banana (e.g. “Too Hot to Handle”) or as Greer Garson’s husband in whatever thing MGM thought would sell tickets (“Mrs Miniver”, “Madame Curie”, etc., etc., etc.) and this happily falls in neither category. Margaret Sullavan and Hattie McDaniel (as her maid, as you might have guessed) are very good, although I prefer Sullavan in Borzage's hands, and James Stewart looks as naïve as only he can.
Despite all this the film doesn’t quite make it. I can’t exactly put my finger into it, but it lacks something – if I had to guess I’d say is Stewart’s saccharine naivety that doesn’t quite do it for me, it never did.
PS - I am left wondering if the artist who made the poster had ever seen a clear photo of Margaret Sullavan.
PPS - added a second and much better poster.