Janet Gaynor plays the wife of a farmer, in what is one of her three nominated performances for this Oscar year. She represents the good female character, as opposed to the mistress, and she’s generally presented as a quiet, modest, pretty, supportive wife. As the story takes place in about 24 hours, she goes from being the possible victim of a murder plot to a woman rediscovering the love for her husband and becoming again the object of his affection.
The role is a cliché, no doubt about it, and I would’ve rather seen a film about the Woman from the city, but one can’t deny the fact that Janet does give some warmth to the performance and somehow, at least in the beginning, makes us sympathise with this woman and feel sorry for her. Her face is very expressive and, benefiting from a great direction, the camera is always on her at the right time.
But this is mostly on Janet because the screenplay really does offer too little. In the dramatic scenes, she shines through the emotion displayed; but the more comedic ones are a bit silly and make for too much of a sudden change from the dramatically-charged beginning. The performance is inconsistent because the screenplay goes from giving her little to giving her almost nothing to work with. Her smile and her tears are winning the sympathy of the audience, and you can definitely feel her fear in the first boat scene. But the performance doesn’t have a solid writing to depend on and Janet’s charming way of acting can only do so much. I will go with for this performance, and I swear the blonde wig had no influence on my final judging.