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Film / Lydia

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Lydia (1941) is a British melodrama starring Merle Oberon, Joseph Cotten, Edna May Oliver, and directed by Julien Duvivier.

The titular character has her mind made up about love: she wants all of its trappings or none at all. Told through multiple flashbacks, Lydia looks back at her life and the four beaus that went into and out of it as a young, spirited woman of the late Victorian Age.

Not to be confused with the indie rock band of the same name.


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This film shows the following tropes:

  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Lydia has two genuine ones thrown her way: one by Michael and another by Frank.
  • Blind Musician: Frank is a classically trained pianist from Hungary.
  • The Casanova: Richard is the true cad of the quartet of men who courted Lydia. He’s the one who stood her up for an elopement and led her on for over a year. And, unforgivably, he’s doesn’t even remember her.
  • Chick Flick: It’s the 1940s equivalent called a “Woman’s Picture.”
  • Cool Old Lady: At first she seems like a stick in the mud, but Mrs. MacMillan is actually a pretty forward-thinking woman. When Michael and Lydia are set to be married, she lets her butler (who’s Michael’s dad) sit with them and have dinner with them. Even when her upper-echelon friends sniff at the marriage, she tells them that Michael is a good man and that’s all that matters.
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  • Costume Porn: The film is full of late Victorian garb with its miles and miles of luxurious and ruffled fabrics.
  • Dating What Grandma Hates: Robert is the man Mrs. MacMillan definitely dislikes. Granted, when he shows up to meet her, he’s as drunk as a skunk.
  • The Gay '90s:
  • Flashback: The film is mostly told through flashbacks, and there is even a flashback within a flashback in one scene.
  • Framing Device: Now old and frail, Michael invites Lydia to his home and also invites all of her old beaus. They begin to reminisce about the past, and Lydia’s involvement with each of them.
  • Friend to All Children: Lydia emphatically states that it wasn’t her four beaus that changed her life but Johnny, the blind boy she meets while saying goodbye to Michael's ship when he goes off to war.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Lydia tells Richard to stop “making love like a wolf” when he gets too handsy.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Old Mrs. MacMillan dies of one while giving a lovely speech to Michael and Lydia.
  • Old Maid: Lydia almost marries Michael, but she realizes that she just doesn’t love him in ‘’that’’ way. So, she never marries and calls herself a spinster.
  • Old Money: Lydia’s family gained their Boston millions via seafaring.
  • Orphanage of Love: Upon a chance meeting of Johnny, a blind boy from the poor New York tenements, Lydia decides to open an orphanage for the blind. And, of course, the orphanage is a place full of happy children.
  • The Jeeves: Michael’s father is the Jeeves for the MacMillan family.
  • Love Triangle: There’s almost too may to count.

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