The Enchanted Cottage, Difference and the Power of Love

The first time I saw RKO’s The Enchanted Cottage (1945) was on one of those pewter-gray autumn afternoons so indigenous to the Northwest. It was probably a lazy Saturday in front of the fire—one in which Michael and I cuddled on the sofa and took in a black and white film.

 I knew nothing about Enchanted’s history at the time, but after I saw it again the other day, a little research uncovered the fact that the production began as a play commissioned by the British government to bolster men who returned home from WWI with scarred faces and missing limbs. RKO’s 1945 film was made for the same reason, but this time to help soldiers coming back from the second world war with disabilities.

The plot involves the intertwined lives of Laura Pennington, a plain servant girl gently underplayed by the marvelous Dorothy McGuire, and Robert Young as the debonair Oliver Bradford. Young is a flyer who comes home from the war with his once-handsome face disfigured when his plane crashes after it is shot down. 

The two meet for the first time when Oliver brings his fiancee to the cottage and again when he returns, jilted and alone but determined to use it as a place to hide from the world. These two lonely people form a friendship that leads to a marriage of convenience.  

The cottage works its magic, and the couple begin to see themselves and each other as beautiful even though their appearance hasn’t changed. They believe living within its walls has transformed them but learn the truth when Oliver’s self-centered mother makes a surprise visit and opens their eyes to reality.

 In a stroke of movie magic, a pianist friend who happens to be blind helps Oliver and Laura understand that their transformation didn’t come from the outside but from within, and they changed in each other’s eyes because of the power of love.

Having grown up with Cerebral Palsy, I can tell you that disability is isolating for those of us without a robust support system and a belief in the intrinsic value of every human being. We’ve all been sold a bill of goods where youth and beauty is concerned. And since we still live in a world where any difference, including the shade of a person’s skin or a physical attribute that strays from the norm, is often seen not only as “bad” but something to be afraid of, the message of The Enchanted Cottage is still relevant today.

The same was true for Marty and me. While both of us were honest with each other about our disabilities from the beginning, there’s a difference between knowing that someone has a disability and seeing how it affects them on a day-to-day basis. So, when I got up from that wheelchair in the Omaha airport and Marty rushed toward me using his cane on the day we met, we both began to see the truth. This didn’t make any difference in what we felt for each other, but there was a period of adjustment, and disability was a part of that. 

Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, we’ve spent our days building an enchanted new life together—a life in which love helps us deal with our differences—physical and otherwise. Like Laura and Oliver, Marty and I see each other through the eyes of love, and that love allows us to see the truth—that we’re perfect for each other just the way we are. 

10 thoughts on “The Enchanted Cottage, Difference and the Power of Love”

  1. Hi Charles, thank you for visiting my blog. I’m glad I popped over. This was a beautiful article about self discovery, love and acceptance. And come on – who didn’t love Dr. Welby. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful movie, and beautiful writing. Mildred Natwick’s wonderful speech at the end about “bring pretty to her man” even as she knew she was not to the rest of the world, is a stunning moment. I hope the memories of films you shared with your husband provide beautiful moments in your heart as you navigate the waters of grief.

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    1. Thanks so much. I appreciate your reminding me of Miss Natwick’s beautiful monologue. The times that Michael and I shared watching classic films together are some of my most precious and comforting memories.


  3. What a lovely post! I watched this film as an adolescent on TV, back in the early 1980s with my Mum. This film had such a powerful impression on me that I never forgot it and kept hoping I’d get to see it again one day.

    A few years ago I found it online and it was even better than I’d remembered. The scene where Laura plays Chopin on the piano is utterly magical and enchanting! Now I have a portable DVD player with a nice sized screen I must look for it on DVD (hopefully a remastered copy so the resolution is clearer).

    My Mum and I would talk about this film often over the years. My Grandpa (her father) looked very like Robert Young. In fact my Nan (his wife) had sent a photo of Grandpa over to some film studio in America (we are Brits) and they wrote and asked if he would go over to be a double for Robert Young! He didn’t want to go though, so nothing came of it. I don’t know if he ever regretted not going.

    “Pewter-gray autumn afternoons”- I very much relate to this. It’s exactly what it’s like over here in rainy Britain for many months of the year.

    I also like your description of your meeting with Marty. It sounds like you are perfect for each other!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The message of this film is so important. I used to watch classic movies with my mother when I was growing up too. She was the one who introduced me to black and white films and taught me to revere them. I love the tale of your grandfather’s near-brush with Hollywood. Pewter-gray afternoons are some of my favorites after spending many years in Oregon, btw. I’m very lucky to have Marty in my life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The vintage films are the best! Oh I confess I do not like pewter grey days/afternoons. I love bright blue skies and sunlight. I’m very much a summer person. Cannot abide the winter. Although if it’s raining heavily with a few thunder rumbles, watching an atmospheric or spooky old film goes well with that. I am glad that you and Marty found each other.

        Liked by 1 person

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