The Secret Heart (1946)

Oh, The Secret Heart. You are SUCH an interesting little slice of Americana. Dealing with everything from forbidden love to teen angst (and a combination thereof) to suicide, this film is a great showcase for the ways in which Claudette Colbert could exhibit such intense emotions as fear and all consuming regret without once going over the top. She had this coolness about her, this strength and backbone that shone through to her characters that made her so believable, on screen. Her hysterics weren’t histrionics. She always gave off the vibe that she’s the one in control, the one you want to ask what to do next. Unfortunately, in The Secret Heart, her character, Lee, is met with the challenge of June Allyson’s Penny, and the world is an upside down place, for a while.


Even more than Claudette’s outstanding performance, June Allyson’s nearly takes the whole show. Her effortless transitions in the moods of a likely bipolar teenager are nothing short of spectacular. She’s not plotting and not playing Penny as inherently evil, as some may have. She’s not playing for dramatic effect- June really “got” this character. As a person who grew up with severe depression and anxiety, I find June’s portrayal of Penny to be wholly compassionate. When you’ve gone through the struggle of what should be minor misunderstandings that your own faulty wiring turns into the biggest, most life ending deal ever, you know what I’m talking about. June was really really great in this part.

A not to be missed “of course The Cinema Dilettante is directing you to THIS scene” moment is when Claudette and Walter Pidgeon show off their sweet dance moves, to the kids. Nothing better than two serious business types gettin’ jiggy wit it.

I’m sure that’s how it was laid out in the script, too. “Claudette and Walter get jiggy.”


AND ON THAT NOTE, get ye to Warner Archive and BUY THIS NOW. Claudette does have a birthday coming up, after all, and what better way to spend it than by watching this gem?


2 thoughts on “The Secret Heart (1946)

  1. “The Secret Heart” was a film I avoided watching for many years mainly due to my frequent avoidance of all things June Allyson. The fact that she was a warm, kind and generous woman in real life still made her frequent on-screen personae grate. However, when I finally succumbed and watched the movie, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Although in her latter 20’s when it was shot, she beautifully manages to convey a teenager and shows range, skill and depth as her character evolves through the years. Of course I found Miss Colbert and Mr. Pidgeon to be a great on-screen pairing and the movie is very compelling and well worth a viewing or two. I shouldn’t have been surprised, however, since it is directed by one of Jeanette MacDonald’s favorite directors (Robert Z. Leonard) and as was widely noted at the time, Miss Colbert was given use of Jeanette MacDonald’s dressing room on the lot during her time making this movie. MGM had announced that they were keeping the dressing room available, “…for Miss MacDonald’s eventual return to the lot……..” Perhaps Jeanette’s positive energy helped to inspire Miss Colbert in her skillful portrayal.

    • I love 40’s and early 50’s June. She seemed much more versatile and at ease with herself. By the late 50’s, though, in things like Stranger In My Arms and, to a lesser extent, The Opposite Sex, it’s like, “Honey, when did you forget how to act?” I also must admit that I’ve never been able to make myself watch her on Judy’s show because, from the stories I’ve heard, I’ve never wanted to be that embarrassed for another person.
      The first time I saw this one, though… talk about blowin’ up my mind grapes! šŸ˜‰

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