Julia Misbehaves, 1948, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Starring Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon. Co-starring Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Lawford, Cesar Romero. Directed by Jack Conway. B&W, 99 minutes.
London showgirl Julia Packett (Greer Garson) has some unconventional methods for getting by. Although she’s married to wealthy William Packett (Walter Pidgeon), they’ve been separated for years, and she has always refused to accept any money from him. Instead, she resorts to conning it out of male acquaintances by a variety of means.
One day she receives a wedding invitation from the daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) she gave up as an infant. No one in the family will admit to sending the invitation, and when she responds to it, William tries to head her off in Paris. There, in typical Julia fashion, she’s fallen for an acrobat (Cesar Romero) and fills in for his ailing mother in his vaudeville act. William catches the act and rather than being put off by his wife’s flamboyant and unconventional performance, he’s enchanted. Still, try as he might to catch her backstage, she eludes him.
That adventure doesn’t stop her from heading home to her daughter Susan and attending the wedding. It’s when she arrives at the Packett mansion that she discovers Susan is really in love with the avant garde painter (Peter Lawford) William has hired. Despite their years apart, Julia has no problem meddling in her daughter’s romantic affairs.
If only she were just as in control of her own.
It was during the filming of Julia Misbehaves that Greer Garson met the man who would become her third (and final) husband, millionaire Texas oilman and horse breeder, E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson. It was reportedly love at first sight for him, although it took her a little more time to fall. Wary after two failed marriages, she cautiously allowed herself to fall in love. The couple married the following year and were together until his death in 1987.
Garson proved herself to be a bit of a showgirl in the scene with the acrobats, where she insisted on performing the act herself rather than allow a double. She later recalled that going into the scene was “nervewracking,” but the entire performance went without a hitch. If that makes it sound easy, just watch the scene to discover how challenging it no doubt was.
This was the fifth of eight films Garson and Pidgeon would make together. While it may not be their best, it is a charming romantic comedy. Some critics, in particular the film critic for the New York Times, did not feel Garson was up to the role. However, she was a talented actress and that talent served her well in this tale.