Evergreen (1934)





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The old Ben W. Levy war-horse play Evergreen proved to be an excellent film vehicle from British music-comedy star Jessie Matthews. Our heroine plays a popular music hall thrush of the early 1900s, whose impending marriage into nobility is destroyed by the arrival of her long-thought-dead lover. When the latter demands "hush money," Matthews disappears from public view, but not before leaving her infant daughter in the care of her maid. Flash-forward to 1924: the daughter, also played by Matthews, is seeking work as a chorus dancer. An old associate of Matthews' mother, amazed at the resemblance between the two women, decides to pass her off as her long-lost parent, making a big publicity fuss over her "ageless" beauty. The younger Matthews confesses the ruse when she falls in love with a man who claims to be the older Matthews' son. Are you following all this, or do you need a road map? Anyway, if you catch a complete print of Evergreen, you'll be able to enjoy five songs performed by Jessie Matthews, one of them by no less than Rodgers and Hart. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Classics , Drama , Musical & Performing Arts , Romance
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Betty Balfour
as Maudie
Jessie Matthews
as Harriet Green
Barry MacKay
as Tommy Thompson
Sonnie Hale
as Leslie Benn
Hartley Power
as George Treadwell
Ivor McLaren
as Marquis of Staines
Patrick Ludlow
as Lord Shropshire
Betty Shale
as Mrs. Hawkes
Marjorie Brooks
as Marjorie Moore
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Critic Reviews for Evergreen

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Audience Reviews for Evergreen

Lovely Jessie Matthews recreates her stage role in this fun adaptation of the London musical hit; she sings and dances to Rodgers & Hart's "Dancing on the Ceiling."

Michael Troudt
Michael Troudt

Convenient Movie Mirror Images You know, very few people look that much like their parents. I mean, I look a heck of a lot like my dad, or anyway I have some pictures of him as a kid where the resemblance is astonishing. On the other hand, I don't think anyone would be able to confuse us for one another in any other way than that. Leaving aside the obvious differences in our bodies, of course, which you can't. Yes, in fact, my daughter looks a lot like me. Though she has [i]my[/i] mother's eyes. No one I've ever met looks just exactly like a single other relative. Most of us are blends, and indeed this is something which gets said after a baby is born. There is the inevitable cataloging of family traits. However, it seems more common to me that people have an uncanny resemblance to a total stranger--see, for example, Jesse Eisenberg and my Cousin Dyllan. It's easy in movies, though. You solve the problem by having them played by the same actor. Here, the lovely Harriet Green (Jessie Matthews) retired from the stage of Edwardian music halls because she is being blackmailed about the existence of her illegitimate daughter. She disappeared to South Africa. Many years later, she has died, and her daughter, called Harriet Hawkes, has come to London to go on the stage and in her mother's footsteps. Ideally in a less blackmailable way. But anyway, she gets caught up with Tommy Thompson (Barry MacKay), a promoter. Tommy decides that the best way to advance Harriet's career is for her to pretend that she's her own mother, returned to the stage and remarkably well preserved. Somehow, people start to believe that Tommy is her son. Oh, and the blackmailer? Her actual father, who knows that he had a daughter, not a son. (I believe this was George Treadwell, played by Hartley Power, because he's the man I can't place in the cast.) So not so able to avoid blackmail as all that. It's said in the movie, and one presumes the original play as well, that Harriet and the others can go to jail for the impersonation. It seems to be because they're getting financial gain from it. Which, I guess. But the fact is, they're in show business, and there's a certain amount of trickery expected. Tommy keeps saying it's all about publicity, and there's a certain amount to be said for that. There are more than a few notable moments in the history of show business which involve someone pretending to be someone or something they're not. Sometimes, they backfire; I'm not sure how Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck are doing these days. But it seemed to have done all right by Andy Kaufman--there are people to this day who believe that he's still alive, and that his death was just one more practical joke. So I don't know how likely it is that Harriet would end up in the dock over the whole thing. Then again, if one is going to pick at the logic of things like this, one will be at it for quite some time. I've had a bad day, but I don't think that was the only reason I had a hard time paying attention to this. As a story, it's [i]slippery[/i]. It slides out of the consciousness almost as soon as it enters. I hardly remember about the first ten minutes or so. I know that everyone was expecting Harriet the Elder to marry the Marquis of Staines (Ivor McLaren), but I kind of missed what she convinced him she was doing instead. Why she convinced him she was leaving. That whole thing. I'm not sure what her real relationship was with her daughter's father. These things, after all, can be complicated. But I somehow got the impression that she was going to disappear with the person who would eventually become the father of the baby, and it's only the Wikipedia article which really showed me otherwise. I noticed that Harriet the Younger wasn't noticed by much of anyone at first, and I think it was someone noticing the resemblance which got her break, but I'm not entirely sure. Still, of course, this movie was about to miss its window of time. As a British film, it was of course not subject to the Production Code. However, the American distribution audience has always been important to the British film industry, and since Harriet the Younger is explicitly illegitimate, that was not a film which was going to be screened in the US anymore. Now, again, it's pretty easy to miss exactly what was happening, at least at the beginning, but it does become important later on. I do think that there was a way around it, had they chosen to go that way, but they didn't. To be perfectly honest, I don't entirely know what the situation was with the British film industry and censorship. My focus has always been on Hollywood. However, I think it's likely that the film would have had some distinct differences were it made just a little bit later. Maybe at some point I will attempt to do some research on British film censorship. I suspect it will be difficult to do that in this country and using just my local library.

Edith Nelson
Edith Nelson

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