Henry Barnes (Edmund Gwenn) is working on his last book. A widower, retired from his job as a university professor for several years, Henry feels that he’s accomplished all he can. He tells close friend and fellow professor Edward Bell (Gene Lockhart) that he is planning to commit suicide once his book is finished.
Edward tries to convince Henry that there are plenty of reasons for him to continue leaving, but Henry is set on his decision. He begins working on his will and sets the date of his death, three weeks away.
While feeding pigeons in the local park, Henry shares a bench with Peggy (Jeanne Crain), a young pregnant woman whose G.I. husband Jason (William Holden) is a student at the university. The lady takes an immediate liking to Henry, saying that he reminds her of her grandfather.
Peggy and Jason are in desperate need of an apartment, and Henry may be able to help, since his pal Edward is the administrator of university housing. Henry’s life is changed when Edward places Peggy and her husband in Henry’s attic, which previously housed two soldiers.
Apartment for Peggy was written and directed by George Seaton from a story by Faith Baldwin.
If I had to choose just one word to describe Apartment for Peggy it would probably be “unique” — which is sort of a generic term, but does a good job of describing Seaton’s accomplishment in scripting and directing the film. There is a lot of serious drama to be had here, though there are lighter, more humorous and fun moments peppered in early on.
Apartment for Peggy is packed full of heavy topics: the struggles of returning G.I.s with growing families, to create new lives for themselves; the heartbreak of losing a child to war; suicide, and the purpose of life. Even ethnocentrism is tackled, with Jeanne Crain delivering a great rant regarding the way children are taught to hate people who are different than them, or view them as “others.”
Gwenn and Crain are the soul of the film, though the supporting performances are also very nice. Crain in particular impresses, an intelligent and often optimistic woman who leaves a positive impact on both Henry and the viewer.
With a snappy pace and a sweet friendship built between Henry and Peggy, Seaton avoids depressing the viewer or bogging down the story with the issues tackled by the film. Its messages are clear, but the tone remains quite light, allowing the viewer to ponder those issues while still ending the film with a sense of hope. An unusual combination, in the best way!
The score: 5/5!