“This is the story of a great woman, and of the great work she is doing for humanity. Her name is Edna Gladney, and she lives in Fort Worth, Texas. We dedicate this picture to her.”
With this dedication, 1941’s Blossom in the Dust begins. Just as promised, the film tells the dramatized true story of Edna Gladney.
Soon after meeting Sam Gladney (Walter Pidgeon) at the bank where he is temporarily working, Edna (Greer Garson) suffers the terrible loss of her sister, Charlotte (Marsha Hunt).
Charlotte had been adopted into Edna’s family, and when the family of Charlotte’s husband-to-be discovered that she was adopted, they put a stop to the marriage. Charlotte had known that she was adopted, but she hadn’t known that she was born out of wedlock until her fiance’s mother went snooping in the county records and discovered that she was a “nameless foundling.”
Charlotte’s fiance doesn’t care about her origins and promises that he wouldn’t marry anyone else, but the damage is already done. Charlotte becomes depressed, sure that she would ruin her fiance’s life if they married, and commits suicide.
Edna rises above her heartache and finds happiness again in her romance with Sam. After marrying him and moving to Texas, where he has since set up his own wheat mill, Edna takes it upon herself to help illegitimate, orphaned children.
Despite opposition from discriminatory Texans who see these children as worthless, Edna works tirelessly as an advocate for the protection and rights of the “foundlings.”
Edna’s efforts eventually lead her to Texas’ court system, where she fights to have the status of legitimacy removed from birth records. Edna also opens a home where these children can stay while she helps them find permanent homes.
Blossoms in the Dust was directed by Mervyn LeRoy for MGM. It appears in the 4 Film Favorites: Classic Holiday Collection, Vol. 2 set from Warner Home Video.
Blossoms in the Dust is not an ultra-Christmassy film, but there are a couple of Christmas scenes in it, and its themes are very appropriate for the holiday season. This drama’s message is that we should care for each other, particularly that we should care for the less fortunate and those who cannot speak up for themselves.
Like All Mine to Give, which appears in the same DVD set, Blossoms in the Dust alternates between periods of extreme happiness and periods of extreme sadness. Here, the highs are even higher and the lows are even lower than in All Mine to Give. The Gladneys always find ways to rebound from their pain, which is inspiring to watch, as is Edna’s determination once she becomes involved in advocating for the children.
A heartstring-tugging story is brought to life by very good performances, especially those of Marsha Hunt and Greer Garson.
Hunt’s performance is relatively short. Her character, Charlotte, dies about twenty minutes into the film. Her performance is so effective in what little screen time she has, though. The few minutes of the story that have Charlotte finding out about her illegitimacy are heartbreaking, and Hunt really captures the viewer during this time.
Garson’s lead performance is fantastic as well, which contributes greatly to the viewer’s ability to get wrapped up in the story. I can think of no one better-suited to this role.
Blossoms in the Dust is a wonderful drama. Highly recommended for fans of Greer Garson’s dramas, or for fans of moralistic films. The score: 4.5/5