For the Love of Mary

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For the Love of Mary
For the Love of Mary Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Frederick de Cordova
Produced by Robert Arthur
Screenplay by Oscar Brodney
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Edited by Ted J. Kent
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • September 1, 1948 (1948-09-01) (USA)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English

For the Love of Mary is a 1948 American romantic comedy film directed by Frederick de Cordova and starring Deanna Durbin, Edmond O'Brien, Don Taylor, and Jeffrey Lynn.[1][2] Written by Oscar Brodney, the film is about a young woman who takes a job at the White House as a switchboard operator and soon receives help with her love life from Supreme Court justices and the President of the United States. For the Love of Mary was the last film by Deanna Durbin, who withdrew from the entertainment business the following year to live a private life in France.[1]


Mary Peppertree (Deanna Durbin) starts a new job as a telephone operator at the White House, where her father Timothy has been working as a guard for many years. A former Supreme Court telephone operator, Mary takes her first call from David Paxton (Don Taylor), a fishing expert who insists on speaking to the President about a political issue involving a small Pacific island. After hanging up on him twice, Mary spends the rest of her day fielding calls from various Supreme Court justices who attempt to reconcile her with her former fiancée, Phillip Manning (Jeffrey Lynn), a Justice Department attorney.

Later that night, Mary meets Justice Peabody (Harry Davenport) at a restaurant to discuss her breakup with Phillip, who is also there. After resisting their efforts to reunite her with Phillip, Mary tells Phillip that she broke their engagement not because she saw him with another woman, but because she was not jealous about it. Their conversation about her hard day at the White House fending off calls from the "fish peddler" is overheard by David, who assures Mary that he will speak to the President, despite her interference.

The next morning at the White House gate, David attempts to bribe Mary with flowers and candy, only to have them thrown back into his face. Later, at the switchboard, Mary receives a call from the President. When Mary hiccups into the phone, the President sends his executive secretary, Harvey Elwood (Ray Collins), down to check on her condition and offers her a paper bag to breath into. When Phillip calls expecting to drive her to Justice Peabody's party that night, she declines, not wanting to resume their relationship. Later, as she is leaving work, Mary must drive David off the White House grounds in order to prevent his arrest. Mary asks David to escort her to the party, offering to introduce him to the President's secretary in exchange for the favor.

Meanwhile, the President, having overheard Mary telling Phillip that she would rather stay home than attend the party with him, sends Lt. Tom Farrington (Edmond O'Brien), a naval aide at the White House, to escort Mary. At the party, they cause a stir and not a little jealousy in Phillip. After a pleasant evening of singing around the piano, Tom escorts Mary home, where she notices they're being watched. After she kisses Tom goodnight and he leaves, she is confronted by David, who's been waiting on the porch all night. David kisses a startled Mary, who starts to hiccup again.

The next day, when the President learns that Mary was upset about not keeping her date with David, he calls the fishing expert himself to express his regrets. Later over lunch, Mary tells David she will arrange a meeting for him with Phillip who can help him with his political issue. That afternoon at the Peppertree home, Tom arrives with presidential orders to take Mary to a White House movie screening. When Phillip learns that Mary is with Tom, he questions David about his relationship with Mary. The frustrated marine biologist announces he is leaving town and that everyone in Washington seems to have a "Mary Peppertree fixation".

Meanwhile, Tom's friend, newspaper publisher Samuel Litchfield (Frank Conroy), complains to Elwood about Tom's involvement with Mary, a mere switchboard operator. When Mary and Tom arrive together at the restaurant, the restaurant owner, Gustav Heindel (Hugo Haas), tells Elwood he saw Mary kissing David. Elwood decides to handle the matter with the Navy personally. Phillip offers to put the Justice Department on the case and promises to clear up the matter in two days. That night, at Elwood's request, David takes Mary out on a date in Tom's place. After kissing David, Mary breaks out in hiccups, a sign that she is in love. When Phillip and Tom show up, a jealous David leaves in anger, believing she is also seeing them.

The next morning, Mary receives calls from Gustav and the Supreme Court justices congratulating her on her engagement to Phillip, and a call from the President congratulating her on her engagement to Tom! When Elwood learns that David is not technically a citizen of the United States, he has the young man arrested for illegally entering the country. Elwood soon discovers, however, that the Pacific island on which David was born and holds a deed is now home to a strategic military base, and if David is declared an alien, the Navy could be forced to move. Later that day, everyone arrives at Gustav's restaurant to try and resolve the issue. After meeting with the President's advisors, David fashions a Senate resolution for the American annexation of his island if both Phillip and Tom are given appointments far from Washington, and both he and Gustav are made United States citizens. The government readily agrees, and when Mary calls the President with the good news, David interrupts her conversation with a kiss, causing both of them to hiccup.


Deanna Durbin and cinematographer William H. Daniels on the set of the film.


The working titles of this film were White House Girl and Washington Girl.[4] The music was written by Frank Skinner. The songs were conducted by Edgar Fairchild and staged by Nick Castle.[1]


In his review for Allmovie, Craig Butler called it "a moderately entertaining mini-musical simply because of the charming presence of Deanna Durbin."[5] Butler saw the film as an unsuccessful attempt at creating a romantic screwball comedy of the classic type, lacking the necessary keen eye on detail, organization, character, and wit. According to Butler, the screenplay lacks all of these. The main "gimmick", of the President of the United States getting personally involved in straightening out the love life of a switchboard operator, is "obnoxiously cute and simply too unbelievable."[5] Butler does applaud de Cordova's direction and the acting—Harry Davenport is especially good as a Supreme Court justice—but it is not enough to salvage a poor script and unbelievable story. Butler concludes:

But it's Durbin who has to carry the movie, and she does a wonderful job, skipping through the messes of the plot without a care for how silly the whole thing is. And, of course, she sounds wonderful when she sings as well. Pretty much by herself, she makes Mary something really pretty merry.[5]

In his 1948 review for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther called the film "a sly piece of propaganda against the administrators of our government in Washington."[6] Crowther explained:

For no one could possibly have cooked up such a horribly-quaint and coy romance in which not only the President of the United States but four Supreme Court Justices play cupid to a telephone girl without deliberately intending to make those gentlemen appear terrific dopes.[6]

According to Crowther, the filmmakers, whom he called "propagandists", manipulate the viewer into drawing negative conclusions about Washington and its leaders. The film also fails on an entertainment level, with "painful attempts at humor" and "flat jokes" about the "woefully lax and quixotic operations of White House officialdom."[6]


  1. ^ a b c d Erickson, Hal. "For the Love of Mary (1948)". The New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  2. ^ "For the Love of Mary". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Full cast and crew for For the Love of Mary". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  4. ^ "For the Love of Mary: Notes". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Butler, Craig. "For the Love of Mary Review". Allmovie. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Crowther, Bosley (September 23, 1948). "'For the Love of Mary,' Comedy Starring Deanna Durbin". The New York Times. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 

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