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The Great Lie

(1941 b 100')

En: 6 Ed: 5

Adapted from a novel by Polan Banks, a woman adopts the baby of her husband's previous wife while he is believed dead.

Pete Van Allen (George Brent) just married pianist Sandra Kovack (Mary Astor), and her manager (Grant Mitchell) demands to see her. Pete's lawyer Jock Thompson (Jerome Cowan) tells him he is not legally married. Pete flies his plane to visit Maggie (Bette Davis) on her farm in Maryland. Her maid Violet (Hattie McDaniel) tells Pete that Maggie has a cold. Pete tells Maggie he is going back to aviation. She wanted him to be a good citizen. Pete returns, and Sandra says she wants to continue her career. Pete tells Sandra her divorce is not yet final and asks her to marry again on Tuesday; but she says she'll be playing in Philadelphia. Sandra performs, and Maggie tells her that Pete is going to fly for the government. Maggie gets home and finds Pete, who tells her he is now free of Sandra. Pete and Maggie wed and are happy.

Pete goes to Washington. In New York Sandra tells Maggie that she will get Pete back and says she is having his baby. Pete calls Maggie he is going on a trip. Col. Harriston (Russell Hicks) tells Maggie that Pete's plane is missing in the Brazil jungle. Maggie misses Pete and goes with Jock to New York. Maggie asks Sandra for Pete's child and offers to help her and pay her. They hide out together in the desert. Maggie fails to stop Sandra from smoking and nags her about eating and drinking, making Sandra upset. The doctor (J. Farrell MacDonald) questions Maggie and delivers Sandra's baby.

Sandra goes on a concert tour to Australia. On her farm Maggie cares for the child. Aunt Ada (Lucile Watson) arrives, and Maggie learns that Pete is coming back. Violet shows Pete his baby. Maggie welcomes Pete and refers to their son. In New York Sandra sees them but does not tell Pete that Maggis is not the mother. Sandra visits them overnight to see the baby and refers to Arizona. Sandra orders Maggie to tell Pete and says she is not leaving until she does. Pete asks Maggie what is wrong and admits he finds Sandra attractive. Sandra tells Maggie she wants the child and Pete, because he loves her more. So Maggie tells Pete that she lied and that the baby is Sandra's. Pete tells Sandra she can take the boy, but he is staying with Maggie. Sandra asks for a drink and says she is leaving the baby with his mother.

Despite the plot device of Pete being missing, this drama is realistic. Pete apparently married Sandra while drunk and out of honor was willing to marry her after learning she is pregnant; but he really loves Maggie and is happy to wed her. When Sandra realizes that Pete loves Maggie more, she is willing to give up the child that has become more Maggie's than hers. Thus the drama shows that parenting is much more than procreation.

Copyright © 2002 by Sanderson Beck

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