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The Gay Sisters

The Gay Sisters(1942)


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Before wealthy New Yorker Penn Sutherland Gaylord leaves to fight in World War I, he writes an airtight will leaving everything to his three motherless daughters, Fiona, Evelyn and Susanna. In his instructions to the eight-year-old Fiona, he emphasizes that the Gaylords never sell their land. After Penn is killed in 1918, another will surfaces in France that leaves ten percent of his fortune to a charitable organization. For the next twenty-three years, Penn's will is contested in court and the sisters are unable to use the bulk of the estate. As adults the sisters once again face a challenge from the lawyers who represent the French will. Fiona explains to the judge that the sisters would willingly give up ten percent of their money to the charity now headed by developer Charles Barclay, but they refuse to sell their house as Barclay demands. As no compromise can be reached, Fiona and her sisters storm out of court. Over the years the Gaylords have cut back on their staff, and now the household consists of the cook, Saskia, and Austin, a small boy Fiona recently brought home after the death of their old nanny, who was caring for him. Evelyn has married into the English nobility and is now known as Lady Burton, and Susanna has fallen in love with Gig Young, an artist. That evening, angered by his defense of Barclay in court, Fiona fires her lawyer, Herschell Gibbon, and hires well-respected lawyer Ralph Pedloch. Although Pedloch believes that he can settle the case soon, he is troubled by the enmity between Barclay and the Gaylords. Meanwhile, Barclay learns that Austin is actually Fiona's child, the result of their brief, secret marriage. Although Fiona tells her sisters the truth, explaining that this is the reason she and Barclay hate each other, she refuses to admit it publicly, and Barclay takes her to court in order to prove that he is the boy's father. Rather than allow Barclay to take Austin from her, Fiona sends him with Evelyn to Gig's country house. When Susanna learns that Evelyn and Gig are alone together, she attempts suicide, convinced that her older sister will seduce the man she loves. Susanna's suicide attempt compels Fiona to face the results of her stubbornness. She hurries to Gig's house and returns with Evelyn and Austin. The next day Fiona agrees to allow Barclay to have both the boy and the house. As the sisters pack up their belongings, Evelyn learns that her husband has died. Although Susanna is afraid Gig will reject her now that her sister is free, he advises Evelyn to return to England and serve her adopted war-torn country. Later, Barclay convinces Fiona that he still loves her, and she agrees to live as his wife and Austin's mother.