|Lowest Recommended Age:||4th - 6th Grades|
|Movie Release Date:||1944|
Plot: Despite the title (insisted on by the studio following the producer’s very successful — and scary — “The Cat People”), this is a gentle story of a lonely and sensitive girl and her “friend,” who may be imaginary or may be the ghost of her father’s first wife. Amy (Ann Carter) is a dreamy kindergartener, not very clear about what is real and what is fantasy, and “a very sensitive and delicately adjusted child,” according to her teacher. Her father Oliver (Kent Smith), still in great pain from his first wife’s tragic death, is very protective, and worries about her “losing herself in a dream world.” When no one shows up for her birthday party, it turns out that Amy “mailed” the invitations in a tree, believing that it was a magic mailbox, as her father had whimsically told her years before. The party goes on with her parents and Edward, their Jamaican houseman. When she blows out the candles, she wishes to be a “good girl like Daddy wants me to be.” The next day, after the other girls refuse to play with her, she finds a spooky old house, where a voice speaks to her and invites her inside. A handkerchief falls from an upstairs window, containing a ring for Amy. She wishes on the ring for a friend, and later says she got her wish, and that her friend sang to her. Amy goes back to the spooky house and meets Julia Farren (Julia Dean), an elderly woman who was once an actress, and who insists that the other woman in the house is not her daughter, but her caretaker. Amy sees a photograph of Irena, her father’s first wife, and recognizes her as her “friend.” Irena promises to stay “as long as you want me” but tells Amy never to tell anyone about her. But when Amy sees a picture of Irena and her father together, she tells him. He spanks her for lying, and Irena tells Amy “now you must send me away.” Amy leaves the house in a snowstorm, looking for Irena. When she knocks on the Farren’s door, Mrs. Farren says she has to hide. Her daughter, bitterly jealous of the affection her mother denies her but lavishes on Amy, has said she will kill Amy if she ever comes back. Mrs. Farren collapses trying to take Amy upstairs. Barbara is furious. But Irena appears, her image flickering over Barbara, and Amy calls out “My friend!” and embraces her. Barbara, softening, hugs her back, as her parents arrive. “Amy, from now on, you and I are going to be friends,” her father tells her, and this time he says that he, too, sees Irena. Discussion: This movie is not for everyone, but children who can identify with Amy will like it, and may be able to talk about themselves in talking about her. Oliver worries that Amy’s dreams will lead to madness, as he believes they did for Irena. Amy just wants someone who will be her friend, and has a hard time connecting to other children. The counterpoint is Mrs. Farren, whose delusion that her child is dead is deeply upsetting to her daughter, in her own way as needy for friendship as Amy is. This movie does a good job of showing how Amy and her parents worry about each other, and that parents make mistakes. Amy blames herself when her parents argue about her, and you may want to make it clear that children are not responsible for family conflicts. Children may be concerned about Mrs. Farren’s delusions, and how upsetting they are for her daughter. They should know that most old people are fine, but that some have an illness that makes them forgetful.