Cast & Crew
Robert Z. Leonard
After completing his three-year service in the Navy, Chase N. Addams returns to his stepmother's home in New York, where he is greeted by his loving girl friend, Kay Burns, and his sister Penny. When Chase learns that Penny has dropped out of high school and has been spending her days in her room playing her piano, he knows that she is still brooding over the death of their father, who passed away when they were children. Lee, Penny's stepmother, is concerned about Penny's odd behavior and discusses her problem with Penny's psychiatrist, Dr. Rossiger. When Rossiger asks Lee about Penny's early childhood in rural Rhode Island, Lee tells him that she married Larry, an investment banker, when Penny was five years old, and that Larry died two years later. Lee then recalls the time just prior to her marriage, when she was traveling by boat from England to America: On board the ship, Lee meets Chris Matthews, a close friend of Larry, and after five days at sea, the two begin a romance. The affair ends, however, when Lee tells Chris that she is sailing to America to marry Larry, the man her mother had earlier forbidden her to wed because he was an alcoholic. After the wedding, Lee spends the next year trying fight Larry's alcoholism and working to win Penny's confidence. One day, Lee, frustrated by her failed attempts to reform her husband, accepts Chris's invitation to a party, which she attends without Larry. At the end of the evening, Chris and Lee stop to inspect a police investigation along the road near a cliff. When Lee learns that the commotion is over her husband, who jumped to his death, she faints in Chris's arms. A photographer quickly snaps their picture, and a local scandal ensues. A larger scandal soon follows, however, when it is discovered that Larry had been stealing money from his investors. Lee refuses to tell Penny the truth about their father's death, and instead tells her that he died of a heart attack. She later moves the family to New York and gets a job in real estate, hoping to make enough money to repay the investors that Larry had fleeced. After Lee concludes her story, Rossiger advises her to take her family back to Rhode Island to live there for the summer. The doctor hopes that the move will cure Penny of her troubling childhood memories, and will help her to transfer her attachment to her father to someone real and alive. Penny reluctantly agrees to go to Rhode Island with Lee and Chase, and they are joined by Chase's friend, Brandon Reynolds. While a romance blossoms between Penny and Brandon, Lee rekindles her romance with Chris. When Penny complains to Chase that their stepmother has been neglecting her family and is only interested in her work, Chase tells Penny the truth about why Lee works so hard. One evening, Lee discovers that Penny has developed an obsessive love for Chris and fled into the night when she saw Lee and Chris embrace. Lee finds her distraught stepdaughter at the same cliffside location where Larry killed himself, and arrives just in time to prevent her from jumping to her death. After Lee tells Penny the complete story about her father's life, Penny returns to school, graduates and resumes her romance with Brandon.
Robert Z. Leonard
Anna Q. Nilsson
John Webb Dillon
Anne Morrison Chapin
Henry W. Grace
Robert Z. Leonard
William Brown Meloney
Edwin B. Willis
The Secret Heart
Claudette Colbert plays a widow trying to help her emotionally troubled stepdaughter, played by June Allyson. The girl is a talented pianist (hence the classical music) who has an Oedipal fixation on her late father. To make matters worse, she's fallen for her stepmother's suitor, played by Walter Pidgeon. Lionel Barrymore has one scene as a psychiatrist who encourages Allyson's use of music as an outlet.
Colbert had been a star of romantic melodramas and sophisticated comedies for 15 years. She had only recently segued gracefully into playing mother roles, albeit youthful and glamorous mothers, in such films as Since You Went Away (1944). It wasn't that Colbert lacked vanity - her insistence on being photographed only on one side of her face was legendary - but she had an innate French practicality, and she knew that she would be able to extend her career by many years by playing mature roles.
June Allyson had made her feature film debut in Best Foot Forward in 1943, and had spent the war years playing sunny heroines of musicals and romantic comedies. The Secret Heart was Allyson's first purely dramatic role, and she was nervous about it. She was also nervous about acting opposite Colbert, who had been an idol of hers for years. Fortunately, Colbert proved to be as compassionate and helpful in real life as she was in the film. "I really felt I was over my head in this," Allyson later recalled, "and Claudette's utter authority, polish, and professionalism intimidated me. But she sensed my insecurities and gave me the moral support and acting tips that made a world of difference. I have never ceased to be grateful to her." Allyson was also grateful for the elegant Colbert's fashion advice. Famous for her Peter Pan collars and casually girlish skirts, Allyson absorbed Colbert's tips about how to adapt her own style for more formal occasions. The two women became so close that when Allyson adopted her first child two years later, she chose Colbert as the baby's godmother.
The story for The Secret Heart is credited to playwright Rose Franken and her husband, William Brown Meloney. Franken had written such plays and screenplays as Claudia (1943), Another Language (1933), and Made for Each Other (1939), keenly observed comedy-dramas focusing on family dynamics. The screenplay for The Secret Heart, by Franken, Anne Morrison Chapin and Whitfield Cook, veered more towards melodrama, and the critics were not kind, although some praised the performances. The New York Times called it "preposterously phony," but added, "Miss Colbert plays the stepmother with an ageless charm." Variety singled out Allyson: "In a role that's a far cry from her usual song-and-dance parts, she gives out with what's undoubtedly the best emoting of her career."
Director: Robert Z. Leonard
Producer: Edwin H. Knopf
Screenplay: Whitfield Cook, Anne Morrison Chapin, Rose Franken, based on the story by Franken and William Brown Meloney
Cinematography: George J. Folsey
Editor: Adrienne Fazan
Costume Design: Irene
Art Direction: Edward C. Carfagno, Cedric Gibbons
Music: Bronislau Kaper
Principal Cast: Claudette Colbert (Lee Addams), Walter Pidgeon (Chris Matthews), June Allyson (Penny Addams), Lionel Barrymore (Dr. Rossiger), Robert Sterling (Chase Addams), Marshall Thompson (Brandon Reynolds), Elizabeth Patterson (Mrs. Stover), Richard Derr (Larry Addams), Patricia Medina (Kay Burns).
BW-97m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri
The Secret Heart
The film opens with the following written prologue: "There are three things you cannot hide; Love-Smoke-And a man riding on a camel-An old Arabian proverb." A June 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that Irene Dunne was slated to star in the film opposite Walter Pidgeon. According to the CBCS, actor Nicholas Joy was originally cast in the part played by Lionel Barrymore. A late September 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that scenes featuring Barrymore were filmed one month after principal shooting was completed. A Lux Radio Theatre version of the story, starring Pidgeon and Deborah Kerr, was broadcast on October 25, 1948.