review for The Secret Heart on AllMovie

The Secret Heart (1946)
by Craig Butler review

The Secret Heart is one of a number of Hollywood "psychological" dramas produced in the 1940s, and like most of them, its psychology is so simplistic and dated as to be laughable to modern audiences. Truth to tell, Heart's attempts at psychological realism are so banal as to have likely raised more than a few chuckles in 1946 as well. With such a false underpinning, the screenplay turns into nothing more than pure melodrama -- and if taken on those terms, Heart is a fairly engaging little film. True, one has to be willing to put up with some outlandish little twists and with characters behaving in a manner that is often contrived and annoying, but if one can get past this, Heart does pack a nice little punch. This is primarily due to its high-powered cast, including a young June Allyson, who does surprisingly well with the dramatic demands that are placed on her. She's helped in this by the enormously generous screen presence of Claudette Colbert. Colbert, as might be expected, does everything that is required to make her role work, and she takes full advantage of all opportunities to demonstrate her particular talent. More importantly, she makes the film itself work, making credible the silliest moments in the film and giving the rest of the cast a solid presence to work with and against. Walter Pidgeon does very well with one of those thankless boyfriend roles, and Lionel Barrymore is his usual solid self. These expert players give Heart its beat.