Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mine Own Executioner (1947)

Burgess Meredith and Dulcie Gray

TCM has been showing some seldom seen noirs of late, including the gripping drama Mine Own Executioner (1947), in which Burgess Meredith plays Felix Milne, a London "lay psychotherapist." (What we would call a Clinical Psychologist these days) Milne has a successful practice, although he is privately somewhat scornful of many of his patients, whom he feels are rich middle aged ladies who just need someone to talk to. He does have the gift of empathy and is genuinely helpful to those in real need. He also donates part of his time to a free mental clinic in chronic need of cash.

Meredith's portrait of Milne is wonderfully deep. Although often able to figure out how to lay the demons to rest in his patients' lives, he is entirely powerless to quiet his own. He suffers from feelings of insecurity because of his lack of a medical degree; loves his wife, (Dulcie Gray) but is annoyed by her clumsiness and lack of the social graces and is fighting his attraction to his friends' beautiful young wife, played by Christine Norden.

Christine Norden

Kieron Moore and Barbara White

When the young wife (Barbara White) of a former POW who is showing signs of schizophrenia and violence comes to ask Milne to treat her husband, (Kieron Moore) Milne tries to recommend her to a medical doctor, feeing that the young man's mental illness seems too profound to be susceptible to analysis alone, but the ex-RAF pilot's fear and distrust of doctors prevents this option from being viable, and Milne reluctantly agrees to try to help, but takes the precaution of consulting his good friend Dr. James Garsten (John Laurie) from the free clinic. The two begin intensive therapy, but Milne soon finds himself in over his head and fears that his new patient may be a time bomb waiting to explode.

Kieron Moore

Barbara White, Burgess Meredith, and John Laurie

Ronald Simpson, Dulcie Gray, John Laurie and Burgess Meredith

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