Moments of Movie Wisdom: Love and Marriage in ‘The Voice of the Turtle’ (1947)

Moments of Movie Wisdom: Love and Marriage in ‘The Voice of the Turtle’ (1947)

A publicity still for the film “The Voice of the Turtle” (1947). (MovieStillsDB)

Tiffany Brannan
Tiffany Brannan


Updated: 2/12/2024


“Love and Marriage” is a popular song sung by Frank Sinatra. Although this wasn’t one of the earliest recordings by the popular singer, its themes seem pretty antiquated now. It includes phrases like “love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage” and “you can’t have one without the other.” You can’t have love without marriage?! It may sound preposterous compared to the current ideas of casual dating, which often leads to living together without even the thought of marriage. However, this “old-fashioned” idea was very common not long ago.
This scene from “The Voice of the Turtle” (1947) takes place 80 minutes into the 102-minute film. A kind young actress (Eleanor Parker) lets a soldier on leave (Ronald Reagan) sleep on her couch on a rainy night when he has nowhere else to go. The first night, it’s perfectly proper, since they barely know each other. After spending the whole next day together, however, he has developed strong feelings for her. He knows that it’s now no longer appropriate for them to be in the same apartment overnight, although it was completely innocent.
In the film, sensitive actress Sally Middleton (Parker) lives alone in New York City. Around Christmastime, she is devastated because her steady beau, Broadway producer Kenneth Bartlett (Kent Smith), wants to break up with her. He just wants to keep things carefree, but Sally takes love very seriously. In complete contrast to her is her friend and fellow actress Olive Lashbrooke (Eve Arden), a sarcastic flirt who flits from one man to the next without thought of love or commitment.
A publicity still for the film “The Voice of the Turtle” (1947). (MovieStillsDB)

A publicity still for the film “The Voice of the Turtle” (1947). (MovieStillsDB)

Olive has a date planned with Sgt. Bill Page (Reagan), who is visiting town on leave, when she receives a call from her old flame, Commander Ned Burling (Wayne Morris). She hasn’t seen Ned in over a year, so she tells Bill a flimsy story. Left alone with nothing to do, Bill asks Sally to join him for dinner. That night, since Bill needs a place to stay, Sally lets him sleep on her couch. They end up spending most of his leave together, and they start developing feelings for each other. Can they forget past heartbreaks they’ve both experienced and find true love together?

The Scene

Bill and Sally spend most of the second day of his leave together. That evening, they go to see a hit Broadway musical, which happens to be produced by Kenneth Bartlett. Sally calls Kenneth to get the tickets, and he invites her and Bill to a swanky afterglow. This is the first time that Sally has seen Kenneth since they stopped keeping company. There, Bill is surprised to see a former sweetheart from Paris. He and Sally enjoy dancing together.
Back at her apartment, they talk over a glass of milk. Sally says that there’s no point in his going to a hotel so late, so she offers to let him sleep on her couch again. Bill agrees and tidies up the living room for her. After an embarrassing mishap with a stubborn zipper on Sally’s dress, Bill decides he shouldn’t be there. When Sally calls to him and receives no response, she rushes to the door and sees him standing by the elevator.
“I’m not staying, Sally,” Bill admits. “Why not?” she asks breathily. “It’s silly,” he explains, adding that he’ll see her tomorrow. When Sally goes back into her apartment crying, Bill sends the elevator away and follows her. He comforts her, and she tearily apologizes “for being such a fool.” Bill tenderly kisses her and confesses that he loves her. Sally isn’t ready to admit that she returns his feelings, so she asks him not to say that. He simply replies, “You talk too much,” and kisses her again. We then see him getting out of the elevator in the foyer and leaving the apartment building to spend the night in a hotel.

Its Significance

This scene is an important turning point in Bill and Sally’s relationship. After Kenneth breaks her heart, Sally swears off serious romance, saying that she wants to keep any relationships bright and gay. She certainly isn’t planning on falling in love with or even going out with Olive’s date. However, when she sees how lonely he is, she agrees to have dinner with him. Bill also is recovering from the memory of a past romance. He was quite serious about the girl he knew in Paris, but she wanted to get married, and he wasn’t ready to settle down yet. Seeing her again at Kenneth’s party makes Bill realize that he no longer has any feelings for her. Sally isn’t so sure that she’s ready to fall in love again, but she feels closure from seeing Kenneth again.
When Sally lets Bill stay in her apartment the first night, he’s a comparative stranger. Her generosity to the soldier is motivated by a combination of compassion and patriotism. Wartime housing shortages necessitated unusual boarding arrangements, which were far less irregular than they would have been during peacetime.
A lobby card for the film “The Voice of the Turtle” (1947). (MovieStillsDB)

A lobby card for the film “The Voice of the Turtle” (1947). (MovieStillsDB)

Bill is a mature, worldly man. It’s pretty obvious that he was happy to go out with Olive without deep commitment or devotion. However, it’s very different with Sally. She’s a sincere young woman, and he quickly grows to care about her very much. After Bill starts falling for Sally, he no longer feels comfortable spending the night in the same apartment as her without being married, although it was perfectly innocent. He esteems her too much to compromise her reputation.

True Romance

The most important moment in this scene is only a few seconds long. After Bill professes his love for Sally, the scene dissolves as they kiss. This alone could have suggested that the soldier decided to spend the night in Sally’s apartment after all, perhaps in a less moral way than the night before. However, the scene fades to his brisk departure from the building that night, showing us that their kiss led to a fond goodbye, not a night of passion.
This is a beautiful movie for Valentine’s Day. It’s so romantic, tender, and sentimental. It shows what true love is and what it isn’t. The acting, the script, the cast, and the wonderful lines make this a charming movie to enjoy any time of the year, but especially in the season of romance.

Tiffany Brannan is a 22-year-old opera singer, Hollywood historian, vintage fashion enthusiast, and conspiracy film critic, advocating purity, beauty, and tradition on Instagram as @pure_cinema_diva. Her classic film journey started in 2016 when she and her sister started the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society to reform the arts by reinstating the Motion Picture Production Code. She launched Cinballera Entertainment last summer to produce original performances which combine opera, ballet, and old films in historic SoCal venues.

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