Since I was twelve I have been somewhat obsessed with mermaids. Up until my freshman year in High School I held on to a stubborn belief that they could exist out in the world. My logic was that no one could prove they don't exist, so...they just might. This logic allowed me to hold on to my desperate hope that there was still magic in the world that rendered my sudden weight gain, self confidence and low grades in Algebra as truly insignificant.
I still believe there's magic in the world. I just don't know if it takes the form of beautiful feminine creatures in the depths of the ocean. But I'm still fascinated by them. I love how much they own their sensuality and their desires. How primal they are. Sometimes they are innocent- like Madison in Splash, and sometimes they are simply unschooled in our societal "niceness" and manners like in Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid. But always, they are mysterious, enchanting, and powerful, whether they know it or not. That's certainly true of the mermaid at the center of this oddball little English gem Miranda.
|Glynis Johns as Miranda|
It stars Glynis Johns as Miranda, a mermaid who catches herself a Doctor on a fishing holiday and convinces him to take her home with him for a vacation. Merriment ensues. Glynis (best known for her work in Mary Poppins) is eccentric, guileless and winning. She's always had an offbeat quality to her, and is at her best when the powers that be allow her to live in this land. She's that somewhat rare breed, the beautiful character actress. The director uses her skills to fullest in this story that sets Miranda loose in a world of extremely civilized men and women all doing the proper thing.
Of course, being the late forties and on a limited budget, the special effects are somewhat simple compared to what is available today, but to me, it only adds to the charm of it. Remember when special effects were meant to support the story, and not thought of as an element that could drive box office on its own? One thing the film doesn't lack is sexual innuendo. I'm assuming the English didn't have the strong censors that Hollywood had at the time, because there a lot of tongue in cheek sexual references sprinkled throughout the movie, which surprised me, knowing their reputation for being somewhat...repressed.
There are also a great number of character actors and actresses filling out the cast, including David Tomlinson, who would eventually play her husband in Mary Poppins, and Margaret Rutherford. Margaret is best known for playing Miss Marple (whom Agatha Christie detested in the role) and she's wonderfully bulldoggish in the role of Miranda's "nurse".
Also worth noting is Googie Withers as the Doctors wife. Her reactions to Miranda are surprisingly nuanced for a comedy of this type, and very English.
Miranda is available on Netflix streaming, well worth a view, and was very successful in 1948. It even spawned a sequel, Mad About Men (which is completely skippable). There was also a statue commissioned near Dartmouth Castle inspired by Miranda, and it has become a tourist attraction in its own right.
|Miranda, Mermaid of Dartmouth, as sculpted by Elisabeth Hadley|