Cynthia (Elizabeth Taylor) is a sheltered girl, living under the oppression of overprotective parents (Mary Astor and George Murphy) who think that she is too delicate and ill to live like a “normal” teenager. Cynthia tells her classmates that she has dates so she can seem like the average teenager, when really she’s going to one of her very frequent doctor appointments.
But soon, things begin to look up somewhat for Cynthia. She is chosen to tutor Ricky Latham (Jimmy Lydon), and the two begin falling for each other. She also gets a part in the school play with the encouragement of her music teacher, portrayed by the wonderful S.Z. Sakall. But her parents are still very reluctant to loosen the reigns on her, and the possibility that her illness will get in the way of things looms overhead.
Elizabeth Taylor is youthful, already stunning and sweet as can be in this film. This innocent role is a 360-degree turn from the persona that she later gained as a strong, seductive woman. Having watched the much more dramatic Suddenly, Last Summer with an older, more brash Taylor at the helm only a few films prior to this, the difference in the two characters was very refreshing to watch. It’s plain to see why she is still remembered as such a legendary actress, with the ability to play such a variety of roles.
Her character also shows quite a bit of growth throughout the film, emerging into a more confident, outspoken personality than the meek girl that was seen at the beginning of the film.
As for the supporting cast, Mary Astor is quite impressive in her role as Cynthia’s mother. Like Cynthia, she also grows stronger as the film progresses. She learns to stand up for her daughter, stand up for herself and make her own decisions. Astor is very believable in this role; you can see that she cares about Cynthia very much.
Cynthia is a great film that delivers high drama, satisfying character growth and an interesting plot, with more than a few very distinctly mid-20th century laughs along the way. Elizabeth Taylor shines, and the viewer very much wishes the best for her character. It all gets wrapped up in a happy, satisfying Hollywood ending that leaves the viewer with a sense of contentedness. The score: 4/5