Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck, the bestseller, has been given a lucid, often-compelling transition to the screen. It’s a psychological yarn, its mid-19th century American-feudal background being always brooding with never a break in its flow of morbidity. Yet, it is always interesting if somewhat too pointed at times in its fictional contrivance.
The screenplay concerns the feudal system passed down through the generations by the old-Dutch families on the Hudson. The story specifically concerns one Nicholas Van Ryn who exacts tribute from tenant farmers on his vast estate (the year is 1844). Van Ryn has a wife and daughter whom he dislikes, and his pet anathema is his failure to have a son to carry on the baronial tradition. When a distant relative is invited to be governess to the child, and he falls in love with her, he poisons his wife, thus leaving him free to marry the other girl.
Gene Tierney plays the governess and it is one of her most sympathetical roles. Tierney is photographed attractively, and paced well, too, in the direction, as are all the others.