I hate when a man’s cruelty and abuse is portrayed as disguising untold love in movies. Despite this, and my general distaste for psychoanalytic stories, I found myself absorbed in this film. James Mason and Ann Todd were the principal reasons.
The film is told in flashback after a young woman’s suicide attempt and subsequent catatonia. We learn that she was a famous concert pianist before her hospitalization. Psychiatrist Dr. Larsen (Herbert Lom) gets her talking through hypnosis.
Francesca (Todd) was fourteen and living at boarding school when she applied for a scholarship to a music conservatory. Unfortunately, she had just been caned on the hands for disobedience and failed the audition. Her parents die shortly thereafter and she is sent to live with her only living relative, second-cousin Nicholas (Mason). Nicholas is a confirmed bachelor and is none to happy to have Francesca around. Then Francesca plays the piano for him and he has a new passion – making her a virtuoso. He sends her to music college.
At college, Francesca falls in love with a swing band leader and wants to marry him. But Nicholas snatches her off to Paris where he completes her training, makes her a star, and controls every aspect of her existence. Finally, after seven years, they return to London. There, he hires a painter to paint Francesca’s portrait. When the painter and Francesca fall in love, Nicholas, no longer able to force Francesca to his will as her guardian, goes off the deep end. As a result, so does Francesca. It is up to Dr. Larsen to save the day.
My plot summary does not do justice to how really cruel Nicholas is to Francesca. The resolution of this film just drove me nuts. Ditto for how two sessions of hypnosis and listening to a couple of records are just the cure for suicidal depression and anxiety amounting almost to phobia. Nonetheless, Mason is mesmerizing and Todd is very, very good (although I kept imagining Joan Fontaine in the part). It kept my attention throughout. Recommended if the story appeals at all.
The Seventh Veil won the Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.