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The Enchanted Cottage

The Enchanted Cottage title card

Year - 1945
Studio - RKO
Stars - Robert Young, Dorothy McGuire, Herbert Marshall, Mildred Natwick, Spring Byington, Hillary Brooke, Richard Gaines
Director - John Cromwell
Writing Credits - DeWitt Bodeen, Herman Mankiewicz
Music - Roy Webb

Synopsis

Laura Pennington (Dorothy McGuire) takes a position as a maid at an old Cornwall cottage, whose legends and history have always fascinated her. It was once rented exclusively to young married couples, but that tradition was broken by the current housekeeper, Mrs. Minnett (Mildred Natwick), whose own husband was killed in the war and who has continued to live there by herself. Laura is a homely young woman* and finds the old cottage, with its widowed housekeeper, a safe retreat from the outside world where physical appearance is so valued.

Oliver Bradford (Robert Young) and his fiance, Beatrice Alexander (Hillary Brooke) visit the cottage to make rental arrangements for after their marriage, but then have to cancel after he receives his officer commission to go to war as a flyer.

The Enchanted Cottage poster

A year later, Oliver returns, by himself, to the cottage, having been wounded and badly disfigured in the war. Depressed and despondent, he refuses to let his former fiance, as well as his parents, visit him at his new residence there. He is befriended by only one outsider, Major John Hillgrove (Herbert Marshall), who is blind, also from a wartime injury.

Oliver and Laura become close in their mutual avoidance of others, and Oliver impulsively proposes marriage. Laura at first refuses, believing she only represents a last resort opportunity in Oliver's mind. But they ultimately marry, realizing that their feelings for each other are sincere.

In their love, they find a wondrous thing has happened. They have dramatically changed in physical appearance to each other. Oliver is handsome, as he was before the war. Laura is radiantly beautiful. They believe that the change is due to the enchantment of the ancient cottage itself.

They summon their friend Major Hillgrove to tell him the news. He comes to the cottage and, even though he cannot see their appearance, is curiously subdued, as is Mrs. Minnett. Then, Oliver's mother, Violet Price (Spring Byington) and stepfather, Freddy Price (Richard Gaines) pay a visit to their son. In their eyes, Richard still appears disfigured and his new wife, Laura, is singularly unattractive. They react with pity and condescension.

Oliver and Laura realize the truth of their being. It is their love for each other that makes them beautiful in each other's eyes, and they accept that reality.

Show Spoilers

*In truth, Dorothy McGuire's character is not at all homely but, at worst, a bit plain. The credibility of the story is strained when others react to her as if she was hideously ugly. When she is seen in her "beautiful" state, the only difference is lipstick, make-up, and an attractive hairstyle.