Searching for the perfect love story to watch on Valentine’s Day? Look no further than “The Enchanted Cottage” (1945, Warner Archive, unrated, $20), a touching romance co-written by Herman Mankiewicz, the Wilkes-Barre-reared scripter most famous for penning “Citizen Kane” with Orson Welles.
Shot for RKO, the same studio that released “Kane,” the movie stars Dorothy Maguire as a plain Jane enlisted to work as a housekeeper at a mysterious home on the outskirts of town. The main part of the house has long since burned down, but the wing that still exists is a haven for honeymooners.
On her first day on the job, she meets a couple (Robert Young, Hillary Brooke) who seem very much in love. But before the pair can wed, he’s sent off to World War II. When he returns, he’s lost the use of his arm and is scarred badly. Brooke doesn’t so much reject Young as he rejects himself and goes to the Enchanted Cottage to retreat from the world.
If you don’t know what happens next, you haven’t seen many movies. Of course Maguire and Young fall in love. But there’s a twist. Inside the cottage, their flaws disappear, and they find each other beautiful and attractive.
“The Enchanted Cottage” was nearly remade by Cher (who lived in Scranton briefly as a toddler) in the 2000s. But it wouldn’t have worked. The film is too delicate and fanciful to make the transition to modern times.
It’s better to enjoy the original “The Enchanted Cottage” in all of its black-and-white glory. It is, to quote critics Richard B. Jewell and Vernon Harbin, “a beautiful film about ugliness.”