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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Storied Lesson

All This, and Heaven Too (1940) on IMDb

Accepting her new position as French instructress at Miss Haines School for Young Ladies, Mlle Henriette Deluzy-Desportes (Bette Davis) must first defend her reputation from the scurrilous innuendos of a Paris rag one of the student's maids had cut out (“They have found out.”) The story she tells them about being governess takes up most of the movie till her oldest charge Isabelle de Praslin (June Lock­hart) approaches marriageable age and her confessor tells her she needs to prepare for it. Her mother The Duchesse de Praslin (Barbara O'Neil) sure isn't competent to instruct her about “love and submission,” and Mlle D. has never been married, so that leaves her out. We're left seemingly hanging were it not for a fairy tale she told earlier.

In the fairy tale a fluffy flower transforms into a fairy godmother who offers a child one of two options to choose from, and she can't change it later:
  1. Happiness while young.
  2. Happiness while old.

In an ironic twist two men, a minister-in-training Henry Martyn Field (Jeffrey Lynn) and 19th century French Duc de Praslin (Charles Boyer), each chooses when to be happy and it sure looks like they are stuck with their choices. The minister-in-training focuses on his studies prioritizing his preparation for the ministry, trusting the Lord will bring him a suitable wife in good time, after God has prepared her, if that is God's will. That, how­ever, doesn't prevent him from socializing and doing comparison shopping so he'll know what's out there and be able to relate to women when the time comes. In this manner his path crosses that of Mlle D. on the deck of a ship heading for France, though it's likely he'll ever see her again. He is opting for a happy marriage later in life. He must suffer solitude now.

The Duke makes the opposite choice. He marries a woman with a pedigree a little less than his but able to infuse needed capital into the marriage. Unfortunately, that leaves his wife's father holding the purse strings when critical decisions must be made later on. By and by, the passion dies out of their marriage. Furthermore, obligations of state have required his time, and when the duchess was not receiving the attention she'd become accustomed to, she responds with a cloying need that causes him to recoil, which only feeds on her insecurity in a vicious cycle. The classy governess he's now hired only displays the best in a woman that can't be his. There is nothing he can do to bring him­self happiness, though there's plenty he does to make it worse. Fairy tales can be so cruel … when you're on the wrong end of one.


Mlle D. starts out with a reference handicap: her grand­father who is her only living relative vouches for her character and qualifications but won't fully back her up because he's some­how related to the King of England and doesn't want to step on the toes of the King of France. There's also the matter of “some mystery in my birth,” which he won't divulge. That's just the hand the young woman has been dealt for some reason, as in, (Eccl. 7:13) “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?”

(Eccl. 7:14) “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him.” Be happy in good times and be wise in bad.

(Eccl. 7:15) “All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.” The King's court does a real number on the blame­less governess, but they them­selves continue on as if nothing happened.

(Eccl. 7:16) “Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?” The governess did a super fine job with the kids, but she could have saved her­self a world of grief had she slacked off in places. Accompanying the children and their father to the Théatre Francaise to see Rachel perform was a boon to their education, sure, but the duke being spotted in the company of a beautiful woman not his wife soiled D's reputation in the tabloids. Her diagnosis of young Reynald de Praslin (Richard Nichols) was wiser than that of his mother, but standing up to the lady would jeopardize her getting the reference she needed, the reputation of a governess being her chief asset.

(Eccl. 7:17) “Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?” The duchess relentlessly drove the duke to madness, but at some point she would have done well to back off. Opening her foolish mouth to top it off is like (Prov. 18:6) “A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.” Who knows how far the duke will go when he's at his wits end.

(Eccl. 7:18) “It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this; yea, also from this with­draw not thine hand: for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all.” This movie gives us the good example of the minister-in-training to follow.

Production Values

” (1940) was directed by Anatole Litvak. The screen­play was by Casey Robinson based on a novel by Rachel Field who was a descendent of one of the principals of these true events in 1840s France. It stars Bette Davis and Charles Boyer. They did a very good job of conveying their emotions through body language and facial expressions around a taboo topic. The other actors played their parts well, too. The oldest children were professionals and the youngest cute.

It was rated: United States: Certificate: Approved, TVPG (TV Rating); Canada: PG (video rating); United Kingdom: PG (video rating). It had an out­standing production design and great character performances. It featured a magnificent musical score by Max Steiner and beautiful photog­raphy by Ernest Haller. The movie is long and long on melodrama.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Be prepared to observe children, albeit well brought up ones when it comes to the one family. This plot would serve well as an antidote to formulaic Holly­wood fare in which love in a mad rush secures a life­time of marital bliss. History comes alive here. An interesting perspective, well played out.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Video Occasion: None of the Above. Special effects: Well done special effects. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.