I’ve been on a bit of an Eleanor Parker kick this year. So I chose to watch The Voice of the Turtle for her sake. However, when Eve Arden came onscreen I finished it for hers. But then, who can blame me? Eve Arden has always been a scene stealer.
Originally a popular Broadway play, The Voice of the Turtle (also titled One for the Book) was adapted for film in 1947 starring Parker, Arden and the pre-political Ronald Reagan. Parker is the innocently sweet Sally Middleton who has been disillusioned in love. She is the opposite of her good friend Olive (Arden) who has no problem dating up all the various soldiers who come through New York on their weekend furloughs.
Olive arranges to meet her latest conquest Bill Page (Reagan) at Sally’s apartment. But when Olive receives a better offer, she stands Bill up and Sally is stuck entertaining him. Not wanting to hurt him and also wanting to keep her options open, Olive asks Sally to make her excuses to Bill and to hide the real reason she is suddenly unavailable.
Though Sally is still reeling from a painful break up, she offers to put Bill up for the weekend when he finds out there isn’t a single hotel room available. Neither Bill nor Sally is interested in a fling, but as they spend time together, they begin to discover a kindred spirit in each other.
Meanwhile, Sally is drawn further into Olive’s subterfuge, hiding the truth of Olive’s constant phone calls and lying to Bill on her friend’s behalf. Things become even more complicated when Olive arrives unexpectedly at Sally’s apartment and Sally must hide the fact that Bill has spent the night! How far does friendly loyalty go? And more importantly, will these three recognize love in the middle of all their personal intrigues?
EVE ARDEN SHINES
Although it has been a couple of months since I first watched The Voice of the Turtle, it is a film which has remained memorable to me. After my initial viewing, I was focused on the quietly sweet romance between Bill and Sally. It moves slowly, but leaves a warm afterglow. But as time passes, what really sticks out in my memory is the performance of Eve Arden.
I’ve seen Arden play second fiddle in many films, but I believe this is one of her best performances. As usual she stays true to her wise-cracking, common-sense sidekick role. But her version of Olive is also a scene stealer. In lesser hands, Olive could have been a despicable, unsympathetic, two-timing character. But Arden gives Olive depth, nuance and above all presence.
When Arden is on the screen, everything and everyone else fades into the background. She imbues Olive with such a robust, unapologetic personality. One wonders how the boldly scheming Olive would even notice the timid Sally, much less befriend her. In fact, it is Olive’s friendship with Sally which makes Sally even slightly interesting as a character. Without their interactions Sally would be an endearingly quirky, yet saccharine and boring woman.
So although Eleanor Parker is the star of the show, it is Eve Arden who makes The Voice of the Turtle so memorable. And that is her genius. Her ability to outshine the star performers without overpowering them.