My Reputation is a film that showcases the North’s catty side. Stories of gossip and rumor mills are typically set in high-class Southern societies, but this one is set somewhere very different: the metropolitan Chicago area.
Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck) is a widow whose husband has recently passed away after a long battle with illness. She’s adjusting to raising their two sons on her own while grieving her beloved husband. She is feeling very despondent and lonely, but at the same time is resisting pressure from her family to get together with their lawyer, Frank (Warner Anderson). To clear her mind and get a change of scenery, she decides to leave town and spend part of the winter at Lake Tahoe with her friends Cary and Gina Abbott (John Ridgely and Eve Arden), who own a cabin there.
During her stay, Jessica gets lost one day while skiing and meets Scott Landis (George Brent), a major on leave from the military. He helps her find her way back to the cabin, and they fall for each other in the process. But when Jessica returns to Illinois, she finds that her family and friends disapprove of her relationship with Maj. Landis, and the relationship falls prey to the rumor mill.
Barbara Stanwyck so easily wins the viewer over as usual, thanks to her immense amount of talent. The viewer’s heart aches for her as she deals with her husband’s death and struggles to raise her two sons on her own. The beginning of the film is quite sad as a result, and the viewer feels even more sympathy for her as she contends with her mother, who attempts to assert entirely too much control over her life.
Things certainly begin looking up for Jessica once she meets Major Landis. The viewer is already on her side, wanting the best for her, so it’s natural to root for them as a couple. On top of that, Stanwyck and Brent have great chemistry with each other. It’s a very nervous chemistry at first, with Jessica acting quite shy and unsure around Maj. Landis, but the overall effect is very endearing.
A usually subtle score succeeds in heightening the emotional reaction from the viewer, particularly as Jessica and Scott get to know each other in Lake Tahoe.
Stanwyck’s character makes quite a transformation throughout the course of the film and her budding relationship. At one point it appears that she may have changed for the worse, choosing time with Major Landis over time with her children. However, by the end of the film it becomes clear that her transformation was a good one. She seems to have healed a bit after the loss of her husband; she has become more independent, falling less under the influence of her mother and the other intimidating figures that crowd her life.
My Reputation is a very sweet romance at its heart, but with an edge of societal drama. A traditional and sentimental ending leaves the viewer feeling content, and generally pleased with how the changes in Jessica’s life have played out. The score: 5/5