Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day


This is based on a novel written in 1939, but as I watched it I felt it easily could have been a stage play. There are a limited number of scene changes, and it is dialogue-driven. Further, I thought it could make a real nice musical … and in fact, in the DVD extras, I learned that Universal optioned it many years ago, intending it to be a musical starring Billie “Glenda the Good Witch” Burke. But a little something called World War II intervened. Now, almost 70 years later, we get this production starring the wonderful Frances McDormand as Guinevere Pettigrew.

The film is a sweet little trifle of the British upper classes on a day close to the start of the war. Some of it reminded me a bit of Oscar Wilde, though never quite that sharp. Miss P. is a governess down on her luck, and through comic misadventure and a bit of guile, she becomes the social secretary for an air-headed American actress-wannabe, Delysia Lafosse (real name, Sarah Grubb), played wonderfully by Amy Adams, who enchanted me in Enchanted. The lady can do “bubbly” better than anyone else around today. Miss D. has three boyfriends on the string, two that can do her good in her career—which really amounts to nothing so far, in spite of appearances—and one who is her obvious true love. Miss P., initially rather prissy and horrified by the lifestyle of these people, turns out to be quite resourceful in manipulating them and helping Miss D. get through her hectic and disorganized life. Guess which man Miss D. picks, in the end, after much comic travail? And guess what happens to the ugly duckling Miss P.? Hint: The author said she never wrote an unhappy ending. That’s cool with me. We both enjoyed this one. Oh, and my chief worry—can American McDormand, who handled Texas and Minnesota so well, do British? Yes, she can, though I wish she’d spoken up a little. We had to have the subtitles on.