“GILDA” ( 1946 )

Here it is again. There is something blazingly epic and biblical about this shot:

GILDA

Every blogger and their grandmother’s great-uncle Fang has written about this movie. So now, it’s my turn.

I like GILDA but boy oh boy I have to admit it’s an uncomfortable watch. Sex AND punishment … sex IS punishment, sex AS power. Psychosexual shenanigans done 1946-style. It’s a see-saw of power and oneupsmanship between a man and a woman who are, at times childish, and at most, very very hot.

The destructive, dark side of love & romance is reminiscent to some extent of Bogart & Bergman in Casablanca ( Bogie getting the brunt of the heartache ) and even moreso in Notorious  with Cary Grant and Bergman again ( where Grant really acts like a fat-head ). But “Gilda” turns up the heat ten thousand degrees on the sado-masochistic side of “love.” Here, lovers meet up again after a few years. He done did her wrong and now she tears his heart to shreds. Such tough guys Bogie and Glenn Ford and Cary Grant are, but they can be reduced to ashes. Is it a self~imposed misery of their own making?

RITA HAYWORTH had been kicking around for a while in Hollywood by the time “Gilda” came around. ( Her picture before this was Tonight and Every Night” with my bête noire – Lee Bowman and the one after, Down to Earth with the soon-to-be blacklisted Larry Parks. ) She danced with the masters, Astaire and Kelly. She worked opposite Grant and Cagney. Her role opposite Tyrone Power in Blood and Sand might be the precursor to “Gilda” – Woman as Temptress. But Gilda is something else again. I like this movie, it being one of my favorite films of 1946. ( Check out my 1946 list here. ) And I think this is one of the best performances of Hayworth’s career. They finally give her something to work with, so she can paint a canvas with many colors. Here is 28-year old Rita. She dances, she flirts, she taunts, she’s hurt. She’s conflicted. Now on the face of it, psychologically, it’s a sick twisted movie ( c’mon, you know it is ) which is why I like it. Calling it a “love-hate” relationship, as Joseph Calleia does, is too easy. I don’t like to see Gilda tortured, but the back ‘n forth power plays between her and Johnny were sumthin’ else! A couple of reasons why I like this movie:

I was intrigued by the little spy story thread in the movie. Gay, festive…Argentina, the place where Nazis go to hide. Ballin Mundsen ( actor George Macready ), Nazis and the tungsten angle is like Hitchcock’s MacGuffin in “Notorious” ( “Gilda” was released first. ) You know…this scene:

NOTORIOUS - INOTORIOUS - VIINOTORIOUS - VI'%22NOTORIOUS%22 - IIINOTORIOUS - IV

I like the “tension” between Ballin and Johnny. Nah it doesn’t only feel like two guys fighting over the same girl. You’ve seen that a thousand times before in classic movies; this subtext feels a little different. Half-baked idea of mine? No, I don’t think so.  I mean there’s not that much loyalty in the world for a man to marry his boss’ widow, who incidentally was his ex-girlfriend, and then not sleep with her. Who’s being faithful to whom:

“She hadn’t been faithful to him while he was alive. But she was going to be faithful now that he was dead.”

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I was born last night when you met me in that alley. That way I’ve no past and all future, see? I like it that way.

Doesn’t that sound like something from In A Lonely Place? It’s not as intense a ‘hero worship’ as in Desert Fury between Wendell Corey for John Hodiak, but there’s a there there. Whether it was unintentional or a winking, knowing little Easter egg subtly put in, I find it an interesting layer. Don’t worry, Rita will come on the scene soon enough and set it all straight.

I also like Charles Vidor’s direction. It’s good. Unobtrusive. There’s no music foreshadowing emotions. The music we hear comes from the casino’s orchestra. Vidor’s camera work is fluid ~ he has tracking shots or easily swings the camera around people. I like how he sometimes has the leads in shadow when they speak or has them move from shadow into light. No music underscoring things; sometimes deathly silence. The better for you to pay attention to, my dears. But of course, the movie’s about these two crazy kids:

GLENN FORD ( I )RITA ( I )

They’ve got history and proceed to torture each other.

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And you know hell hath no fury…so, let the games begin.

  • “I was true to one man, once.” 
  • “I’ll look my very best Ballin. I want all the hired help to approve of me.”

Ssssswishhhhhhh! Arrows fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Gilda’s razor-sharp words squarely hit their mark and slash deeper than the blade in Ballin’s cane.

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JOHNNY: “Doesn’t it bother you at all that you’re married?”
GILDA:    “What I want to know is, does it bother you?”

Ballin is silky, suave, smooth, serpentine. But I cannot, in all good conscience, carry my alliteration to include sexy. These types often seem to be asexual ( ACK! ) giving earnest hugs and chaste kisses on the cheek.

BASIL RATHBONE GILDA ( XX ) CLAUDE RAINS ( NOTORIOUS )
   

Hollywood doesn’t want to confuse us by offering sexy villainous-types to compete with our basically good tortured heroes. There is a soupçon of danger and sexiness to Menace. Ballin is smart…observant. He knows. Why else propose this toast that Gilda reluctantly sips to.

GILDA ( XXI )

“Disaster to the wench who did wrong by our Johnny.”

These villains are cultured and wealthy; and they do love their wives, in their own fashion. Ballin questions Gilda about knowing Johnny before. It’s a quiet scene; not a sound. They’re in shadow and Gilda’s self-preservation kicks in ( she says nothing ). Laying on the bed, she rolls from the shadow into the light, the proverbial lightbulb goes off, when she realizes what he is saying. He’s got a beautiful woman ( in her own bed, apparently ) and wraps his golden hypnotic voice around these lines:

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“You’re a child Gilda. A beautiful Child. And it amuses me to feed you beautiful things because you eat with such a good appetite.”

Bone-chilling. Henry Daniell would be proud. Now we know what Gilda’s dealing with. And so does she:

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“But hate can be a very exciting emotion. Very exciting. Haven’t you noticed that? There is a heat in it that both can feel. Didn’t you feel it tonight? I did. It warmed me. Hate is the only thing that has ever warmed me.”

 

Gilda and Johnny have a couple of guardian angels looking over them but they still have more damage to do to each other first. ( Never let it be said a good Greek chorus gets in the way of true romance ). Poor Johnny. He’s got it bad…and that ain’t good.

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Gilda’s got it bad herself. She’s let down her defenses in that lovely quiet moment with Uncle Pio. When Johnny barges in ( somewhat jealous of Uncle Pio being the recipient of Gilda’s attention ) she confesses to him that she was on the rebound. Truce? HA! Naturally, he scoffs at her which leads her to volley this back:

GILDA ( XXV )

Would it interest you to know how much I hate you, Johnny? I hate you so much that I would destroy myself to take you down with me. Now, I’ve warned you.”

* * * * *

 WHAT IS THIS THING…CALLED LOVE?

I hated her so I couldn’t get her out of my mind for a minute. She was in the air that I breathe; in the food I ate.”

She’s laid down the gauntlet. She’s going for a Pyrrhic Victory. She’s taking no prisoners. Death and destruction in the game of love never looked so good or felt so hot. Johnny gains the upper hand and keeps her close to him to ensure…his own torment. He becomes more Ballin than Ballin in his possession of Gilda. She’s trapped…like a bird in a “gilded” cage and tries to break out in her own way. Uhhhh, no, this is not merely dancing a jig. She grabs the film by its horns:

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GILDA:   “Didn’t I get even with you for walking out on me by marrying Ballin… Johnny, there’s never been anybody but you and me. All those things I did were just to make you jealous Johnny. There’s never been anybody but you and me.”

JOHNNY:   “Not anybody.”

GILDA:        “Not anybody.”

JOHNNY:   “What about your husband?! If you could forget him so easily you could forget the others too, couldn’t you.”

GILDA:        “But there weren’t any others Johnny.”

JOHNNY:   “When you admit them. When you admit them and tell me who they were.”

ADMIT THEM? He wants details? ( Girls, as your cinematic advisor, I suggest you just give your name, rank and serial number in that situation; men don’t really want details no matter WHAT they say ). There’s more volleying back ‘n forth here than in Wimbledon.

He won’t let her go and won’t let himself love her. So Gilda has the most famous acting out moment in film history. It’s the gloriously show-stopping tantrum when she puts the blame on Mame:

GILDA ( Mamin' It UP! )          GILDA ( XXXI )GILDA ( Mame-IV )GILDA ( Mame )

Rita in black satin, peel- ing off Gypsy Rose Lee gloves, her hair casca-ding like Niagara Falls and everyone going over a barrel with her.

 GILDA ( XXX ) GILDA ( Glenn )

You wouldn’t think one woman could marry two insane men in one lifetime. Would you.

This public display is just too much for Johnny. He finally has to let her go. Or does he? If you think the opposite of love is hate, then you must see how this all plays out. Glenn Ford walks a razor’s edge with his performance, and Rita? Well…she leaves it all out there for the ages. And she is fantastic.

Yes Virginia, there really IS a Love Goddess.


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THE STRANGER ( 1946 )

 

LORETTA.I am new to LORETTA YOUNG. Well, not exactly. More accurately, I’ve had my eyes wide shut to her through most of my early classic film journey. ( I know, I know… ‘there are none so blind as those who cannot see.’ ) A young friend of mine ( KM-P ) from a land far far away, asked me if I had seen Loretta’s precode films. Uhhhmmm, not really. Late 30’s yeah, but not early. She suggested I start with her pre-code work. I since have. Holy cow, who knew!!!

Another friend texted me about an early film of Loretta’s she had taken out of the library and I was able to chime in as though I knew this fact all along. Well now I know. And now I wholeheartedly join a slew of bloggers to celebrate the career of fellow Capricorn, Loretta Young. ( She, January 6th

LORETTA YOUNG BLOGATHON ( II )

and I’m January 18th. Me and Cary Grant, that is ) for my first blogathon of 2016. ( Click on the banner above. ) Experiencing Young’s persona in her pre-code films ( Gaaaah! She had to be the most put upon movie heroine of the early 30’s: “She Had To Say Yes” ) helps springboard me to her later work. You know, seeing her evolution and all…

THE STRANGER ( I )

Alfred Hitchcock defines suspense as sharing information with the audience the movie’s characters don’t yet know. Orson Welles’ 1946 film THE STRANGER has got to be Suspense 101. ( Spoilers. )

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  • Within the first three minutes we know Orson Welles is a Nazi
  • Within the first five minutes we know Orson Welles is a murderer
  • Within the first ten minutes we see Orson Welles marry Loretta Young

Young plays newlywed Mary Rankin and we watch her go from unknowing-to-knowing. We’re helpless as we see the scales ripped from her eyes. And because Youngs screen persona has basically been the nice girl, it becomes increasingly tough to watch her go through all this. She’s very good playing a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

THE STRANGER ( XIV ) THE STRANGER ( XIII )

Noah:  “Gee Mr. Wilson. You must be wrong. Mary wouldn’t fall in love with that kind of a man.”

Mr. Wilson: “I hope I am wrong Noah, but that’s the way it is. People can’t help who they fall in love with.”

Things go South for Young right after her honeymoon. Edward G. Robinson comes to town as Mr. Wilson, a sort of Van Helsing of Nazi hunters and he’s out for the big Kahuna…Welles. Welles’ character is not really that of a college history professor, but as Franz Kindler, Mastermind of the Final Solution. I love Robinson in this film. He’s so wonderfully down-to-earth, even-tempered and fraternal. He’s much more gentle with Young than Welles is. Eddie G. confides in her younger brother Noah, played engagingly by eighteen year old Richard Long ( of The Big Valley fame ) in only his second motion picture.

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“Your sister’s a fine woman, Noah. But she must find out the kind of man she’s married to. Noah, we must arrange it so that she finds out for herself.”

But he is looking for a Nazi. And he’s anything but calm about that mission. She is a loving caring wife. When suspicion falls on Welles she comes to his defense, fiercely. The first chink in the armor of her marriage is her not being able to speak up about what she sees. Robinson picks that up:

THE STRANGER ( XXV )

“One thing’s certain. She knows nothing now. Nothing at all except that he didn’t want her to admit having seen someone she did see. I’d give some-
thing to know what explanation he’s making right now.”

Silencing the wife. Negating what she sees. Sounds like marriage to me. Oh he

THE STRANGER - EXPLANATIONS

explaaaaaains, alright. Welles does tell her the terrible horrible truth, wrapped in plausible lies. He’s killed her beloved dog. Noah calls it murder when he finds ol Red. Me too. Grrr!! She’s shocked and incredulous but convinces herself to believe him. I really can’t blame her. Youll get no Monday morning quarterbacking from this back-seat driving classic Cine Maven. Welles is a master manipulator.

THE STRANGER ( XXXI ) THE STRANGER ( XXXIII )

Young: “I meant it when I said ‘for better or for worse’.”

Welles: “Even to killing Red?”

Young: “You couldn’t. It was an accident.”

Welles: “No, I meant to kill him. Murder can be a chain Mary, one link leading to another ‘till it circles your neck. Red was digging into the grave of the man I killed.”

Young: “You killed him?”

Welles: “With these hands. The same hands that held you close to me.”

Welles is not an easy director for some to get through, try and try as they might. I like what Ive seen of his work so far. And you may like this film only because of Loretta Young. But its a pretty easy, straight-forward directing job from the boy genius.’ He shows us what he wants us to see. His character is one of darkness, so he’s often obscured in shadows or darkness, holding the camera on Loretta Young’s lovely face; rather than us watching him lie to her, we keep looking at her believing the lies.

Welles professor makes her complicit in his hiding. That was the devilishest thing of all with him. He keeps her really close to him. She willingly lies to protect him because she loves him. He’s teaching her to lie and deceive…until he can get away.  In the meantime, he ‘hides’ in this small-town of innocence. He ‘hides’ behind marrying the daughter of a Supreme Court judge. Diabolical. He uses love…her love, to bind her to him. Her cognitive dissonance is running high as we see her struggle to convince herself he’s a good guy. When Robinsons Mr. Wilson thinks the time is right, he tells her:

THE STRANGER ( XXXXI ) THE STRANGER ( XXXVIII )

“I’m on the Allied Commission for the Punishment of War Criminals. It’s my job to bring escaped Nazis to justice. It’s that job that brought me to Harper.”

THE STRANGER ( XXXX ) THE STRANGER ( XXXVII )

Robinson shows Young footage of the liberation of a concentration camp ( perhaps the first time movie audiences are seeing these camps themselves. ) She plays the scene well, sort of averting her eyes but also looking. You can’t unring a bell, and she cannot UNsee. Robinson delivers the coup de grace on her psyche:

THE STRANGER ( X )

“Now, in all the world, there’s only one person that can identify Franz Kindler. That person is the one who knows, knows definitely who Meineke came to Harper to see.”

It’s a sad scene. She’s crying, she’s hurt, disbelieving. Her father tries to console and comfort her. You can see the closeness in the relationship as they walk down the street, her head on her Dad’s shoulder, her father warmly played by Philip Merivale. Yes, it’s a little more than Honey, there is no Santa Claus. Robinson later says to her father:

THE STRANGER ( XXXIV )

“She has the facts now. But she won’t accept them. They’re too horrible for her to acknowledge. Not so much that Rankin could be Kindler, but that she could ever have given her love to such a creature. But we have one ally…her subconscious. It knows what the truth is and is struggling to be heard. The will to truth within your daughter is much too strong to be denied.”

But the very next scene has Young go to Welles to tell him how she withstood their questioning and accusations; she’s so proud to tell him. She tries to impress him, She wants prove her love by showing him she’d never tell. I think she has Stockholm Syndrome. The bad thing with her admission is Welles now knows she knows who he is, but she does not fully know what she knows. And for her even to have this knowledge
( which she hides from herself ) is a danger to him. Her “knowing” acknowledgment manifests itself in a Lady MacBethian way. ( “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!!” )  Now she wants the curtains drawn. Wants no light let into the house ( wants no truth let into her mind? ) At her luncheon party, dressed to the nines [ as only Loretta can ]  topped off with lady-like white pearls around her throat, she fidgets with the necklace, tugs on it as if it were a noose. It IS a noose in a way. She’s dying to take them off from around her neck after the party’s over. She’s at the breaking point. When Welles comes behind her to help her with the pearls, she recoils and snaps the beads to the floor.

THE STRANGER - XXXXXX

“When she snapped those beads, she signed her own death warrant. We’re carrying her life in our hands,”  says her father.

THE STRANGER - XXXXXXX

#FIVESTEPSTOBECOMINGAWIDOWER

Now she knows what her husband is and acknowledges it, and HE knows she knows. And everyone knows SHE knows and, in turn, knows Welles knows she knows. ( You got all that? ) She must be protected and not let out of anyone’s sight. There is a great scene with her long-time housekeeper trying everything in her power to keep Young from leaving the house. They were both so good in this scene  because there were different intentions that clashed against each other. 

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The housekeeper has got to keep her home, while Young tries to be loyal to her husband and secretly meet him, becomes impatient with the housekeeper ( good performance by Martha Wentworth ) when she delays her, tries to make up to her for yelling at her and then take care of it when she has a heart attach. Young “follow orders” not to tell that she was meeting Welles at the church tower.  ( See how easy it is to fall into that trap? ) But when she couldnt make it, she does tell her kid brother to meet him. Great scene in such a small scale way. The push / pull to keep Young in the house was suspen
seful.

Loved Young’s confrontation with her husband when it all comes out. He’s at the breaking point himself. Her belief system’s been shattered about him but she gains some strength when her family’s put in danger.

THE STRANGER - HERE, USE THIS! ( B ) THE STRANGER - HERE, USE THIS! ( A )

Young: “Did you kill Noah?”

Welles: “Yes, if he goes to the church and climbs up that ladder.”

Young: “It was I you intended to kill wasn’t it?”

Welles: “No.”

Young: “Why wasn’t it I? FRANZ KINDLER!!! Kill me. Kill me, I want you to. I couldn’t face life knowing what I’d been to you and what I’ve done to Noah. But when you kill me, don’t put your hands on me. Here. Use this!!”

Her belief system’s been shattered, but she gains some strength when her family’s put in danger. See her pure release when she’s finally able to contemptuously calls him out. See her face here when she triumphantly says his name. And the triumph is mixed with disgust and fear. She’s practically saying “…even though you’re evil you’re still not good enough to touch me.” The twistedness of giving him a weapon ( the fire poker ) TO kill her was brilliant:

THE STRANGER - HERE, USE THIS! ( C ) THE STRANGER - HERE, USE THIS!

A frisson of emotions washes over me with goosebumps during her whole discovery scene. Young is thrilling to watch go toe-to-toe with Orson Welles. Her death would be on her own terms. She faces him for their final confrontation in the church tower. I LOVED her having him lift her up by the arm, dangling in mid-air since he sawed off some of the ladders rungs earlier. ( This seemed Hitchcockian to me. )  Pretty gutsy move for our doe-eyed, apple-cheeked heroine. She makes me think Teresa Wright in “Shadow 0f A Doubt.” ( Go away Uncle Charlie or Ill kill you myself. See. Thats the way I feel about you. ) Young’s character ( like Wright’s Charlie ) now SEES Evil. It’s her turn now to deceive him into believing she still trusts HIM. She has to get close to him to kill him. HE needs her to be close to him so he can kill her. It’d be too easy for him to drop her from that height. He NEEDS to kill her.

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Welles: “What do you want?”

Young:  “I came to kill you.”

Welles: “No Mary. It’s you that’s going to die. You were meant to fall through that ladder. You’re going to fall.”

Young: “I don’t mind. If I take you with me.”

Whoa! Loretta Young goes gangsta!

THE STRANGER - EDDIE G. THE STRANGER - LORETTA YOUNG Stars THE STRANGER - ORSON WELLES

Who is the Stranger? Is it Eddie G. coming to town with bad tidings? Is it Welles, who’s never really part of the town. ( Welles as Rankin/Kindler is so dour and humorless in this movie I don’t see what attracted Loretta to him in the first place; not a bone of charm in his enitre curly-headed body. )  It’s not that she quite believes him hook, line and sinker. She comes from a loving and trusting place. BLOGATHON ( LORETTA YOUNG BIRTHDAY ) 1 : 3 - 6 : 2016It’s her misfortune that a man who trust no one, marries a woman who trusts everyone. “The Stranger is well-directed and perfectly cast. I find Young believable and emotional in this role in one of the best performances of her career. She removes the veil from her eyes and it’s a thrilling, scary, sad and triumphant thing to see. See this movie ( asap ) and peruse through the rest of Loretta’s birthday blogathon ( hosted by The Young Sisters Appreciation Group and Cinema Dilettante and Now Voyaging ) for her performances in The Farmer’s Daughter The Story of Alexander Graham Bell”…and much more to boot.

LORETTA YOUNG ( Blogathon )

Happy Birthday, Loretta. You were a Star and an Actress.

 

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“LA OTRA” ( 1946 )

DEL RIO

“The two most beautiful things in the world are
the Taj Mahal and Dolores del Rio.” – George
Bernard Shaw.

But more on that later…

Aurora’s Once Upon A Screen blog is hosting its second annual Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon. And what better way for me to contribute to Hollywood’s Latino history than by talking a little about one of the most beautiful women who ever graced classic films.

HOLLYWOOD'S HISPANIC HERITAGE Banner #1

I wanted to explore something new and exciting so I checked out the Mexican film noir series held at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art back in July. I saw Dolores Del Rio in “La Otra”. When it started and I saw twin sisters and the giant dog I disappointedly said to myself “Dead Ringer”!!!  I was disappointed only b’cuz I knew what was going to happen in this movie as I’d already seen the Bette Davis 1964 film.

Well I was wrong. Dead wrong.

DOLORES ( III )

Though both movies share the same plot, “La Otra” ( “The Other One” ) is darker, more intense and more sensual than the 1964-version and that is for one reason and one reason alone: Dolores Del Rio. Del Rio does a good job establishing two distinct personalities in playing twins. Yes, one is good ( María ) and ‘la otra’ is bad ( Magdalena ); but the extra kick is to see María still keep her own persona while impersonating Magdalena. See, it’s not only about being different. It’s what preys on the mind of a good person who does something wrong. Very very wrong.

This is film noir and noir is all about descent. And so…Del Rio descends.

LA OTRA ( II )

There is something about good María that is ultimately really not so good. She can’t seem to be happy. She can’t seem to be satisfied. She wants. She lacks. There’s an under-lying resentment of what her rich sister possesses, and trust me Magdalena doesn’t make it easy. Her rich husband has just died so she has it all. She flaunts her wealth. The good María has a faithful boyfriend who loves her. But in not recognizing, acknowledging what she has, María throws away all that’s worth having…for money.

Like any good old film noir from the time period, we follow our hapless heroine down a slippery slope of bad decisions paved with guilt and fear. Hell, as soon as she gets into her sister’s rich digs, María gets spooked, scared and pops some Nembutals. ( Guess this murder / identity-stealing thing is not all it’s cracked up to be. ) I love that the plot sticks close to her and doesn’t stray to extraneous characters. We see her machinations of deceipt up close and personal:

  • María’s cold-blooded murder,
  • forging legal documents in an ingenious way,
  • writing out checks like there’s no tomorrow,
  • duping people she doesn’t know ( but who knew her sister ).

There’s also the emotional toll all this takes on María that Del Rio delivers equally well.

LA OTRA ( VI )

Entering the plot, Magdalena’s lover re-surfaces. Uh-oh. And he’s complicit in having helped Magdalena murder her rich husband. Double uh-oh. And María is aware of NONE of this when she takes over her sister’s identity! ( You can imagine how many UH-0Hs THAT would be ). Now, she may act haughty enough to end the relationship, but ye olde ex-lover Fernando ( played with infuriatingly sleazy smarminess by Víctor Junco ) proffers blackmail…with “benefits.” Poor girl. I don’t what’s worse for María:

  • giving up her ill-gotten gains to this blackmailing sleazebag or
  • going to bed with this blackmailing sleazebag…a man she doesn’t even know

It’s a cinch our María was a virgin, so this turn of events has got to be a triple whammy of degradation. He doesn’t care if she doesn’t love him. Fernando still gleefully collects his pound of flesh. Aye yi yi, the irony!

DOLORES ( IIII )

Even more ironic is María’s faithful boyfriend, Detective Robérto Gonzalez ( played with poignant sadness by Agustín Irusta ) sent to investigate María’s ( ‘fake’ ) murder and later, the theft of a valuable painting. Here is the scene that really gets me. In the detective’s consoling and questioning the fake Magdalena, Robérto speaks of his deep love for María. How trippy it is for María to hear herself spoken about in the third person. And trippier still…María as Magdalena speaks of a lost love TO her lost love. Upping the tension, Robérto, even thinks the faux Magdalena SOUNDS like María. But of course that’s impossible, he thinks. I LOVED and felt that daisy chain of incredible regret and heartbreak from both the Detective and María. There’s something epically Shakespearean about unknowingly talking to the person you want to talk to. ( Don’t worry…I won’t bring up “Vertigo” and the duality issue. Sheesh!  )

The film uses one unfortunate musical element in its score – the Theremin – which brings to mind 1950’s sci-fi films I love. I knew silly music would set this modern audience off on a tangent of giggles, which I hoped wouldn’t happen. I did hear those slightly annoying giggles for some of the other films to be featured in this festival – you know, when the action would tip the scale into melodramatic territory. But what modern Gringo audiences have to understand, is that besides this film being from another era, the Latin culture has flourishes of emotions and pregnant silences that other cultures don’t quite use; it is a teensy soap opera, but ssssssssssshhhh!

LA OTRA ( V ) DOLORES ( X )

“La Otra” follows Dolores Del Rio closely as her best-laid plans turn to guacamole. She is wonderful in it and is in almost every scene. Her training in silent films helps her wordlessly depict anger, fear, love and regret. The writers ( Robérto GavaldónRian James and José Revueltas ) add some twisty turns as Del Rio spins a web that only entraps her in its matrix. As I watch her in this I’m perplexed as to why she wasn’t really used a lot in 1940’s Hollywood. ( Well yeah, sadly, we all know the major “why” ).  But even if she didn’t get those A-list parts Stanwyck and Davis tackled, ( or be in “woman’s pictures” ), she could have still been in the very next tier of talent. She is a perfect actress for the forties. I think Del Rio would have made a marvelous Lady MacBeth; I can see her ambition…being the woman behind the man. And I can definitely see her be the woman who pushes the man…off a cliff. Hollywood should have used her more.

* * * * * * * * * * * 

DOLORES ( IX )

“When I returned to Mexico, I joined with people eager to create the Mexican cinema. We were full of dreams and had no money whatsoever, but we were able to achieve something and open markets for our films all over the world.” – Dolores Del Rio

Forgive me this one minute of gushing before I turn the floor back over to Aurora’s blogathon. Apparently I don’t truly know Del Rio’s career. Surely I know her name, recognize her in photos, and have seen Flying Down to Rio Bird of Paradise along with bits, pieces and snippets of her other films. I know her but I’m not deeply familiar with her. Imagine the full Monty of sitting in the first row at MoMA, seeing this movie on the big screen and this face appears…in close-up:

DOLORES DEL RIO...DOLORES ( VIII )

DOLORES ( VII )

DOLORES DOLORES DEL RIO DOLORES ( IV ) DOLORES ( XI )

I couldn’t believe it. I was hit for a loop! Those close-ups director Robérto Gavaldón gives Del Rio show a regal ancient flawlessness I’ve never seen in movies, and I’m talking GeneHedy, Vivien, Elizabeth, Ava and Jean. And then the mole, just puts everything in high gear. Honestly, I didn’t even understand what I was looking at. I’m going to have to re-read my friend’s, Fernando’s post for last year’s Hollywood’s Hispanic Heritage Blogathon on Dolores Del Rio. You can click the Ramón Novarro banner for more of this year’s crop of posts…or Cesar Romero’s for last year’s as well:

HOLLYWOOD'S HISPANIC HERITAGE Banner #2  HISPANIC HERITAGE BLOGATHON 2014

 

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DUELING DIVAS: “Libeled Lady” vs. “Easy to Wed”

This post is in conjunction with the 4th annual Dueling Divas Blogathon hosted by BACKLOTS, and I want to thank you Backlots for letting this “new blog on the block” participate.

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I’m entering a blogathon under my own steam this time around, having debuted my new blog CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch a week ago. The divas I present for this duel will be a little unusual because instead of it being two people, I’d like to present two classic M-G-M films: “Libeled Lady” ( 1936 ) and “Easy to Wed” ( 1946 ). Both films are perfectly cast with a quartet ( make that, octet ) of some of the brightest stars M-G-M has to offer.

I’d like to pit these two in a head-to-head duel, perhaps not as sworn enemies, but as friendly rivals with the buffer of ten years between them. There are differences between the remakes to be sure. I’ll compare and contrast the two. In this duel, no one gets hurt and everybody wins.

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“LIBELED LADY” ( directed by Jack Conway )

Connie Allenbury brings a $5 million dollar lawsuit for libel against a newspaper. An editor and head reporter conspire to put her in a compromising position so she will drop that lawsuit. The best laid plans…

LIBELED LADY ( III )

This is what I call, my “Martini” of a movie. It sparkles, fizzes, tickles and crackles. Its lines are a little cleaner. It’s an 8 x 10 glossy of a film with these points:

* The glorious shimmering gleam of black & white

* The search for Bill Chandler is done with a montage of different people

* Powell & Harlow marry to put the scheme in play

* Powell sails across the Atlantic to try and entrap Loy

* Powell lies about fly fishing

* No competition for Loy’s affections by other suitors

* No big musical numbers

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

“EASY TO WED” ( directed by Edward Buzzell )

EASY TO WED ( V )

* M-G-M’s crayon box of vibrant colors

* The search for Bill Chandler is done singly by Warren Haggerty using a telephone

* Wynn tricks Johnson and Ball and really marries them in the movie

* Johnson lies about duck hunting

* A half-hearted attempt at a rival for Esther Williams’ affections with that band leader. (Hey, if you really want to give Van Johnson some real competition throw in the swarthy, hot Latino charms of Montalban or Lamas. Hey wait…Johnson’s s’posed to WIN the girl! Nevermind.)

* Two big musical numbers as only M-G-M can do in the 40’s

“Libeled Lady” is as tight as a drum; a stream-lined laser beam of story telling from beginning to end. “Easy to Wed” is slightly bloated with those musical numbers. Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean bloated in a bad way, really. The numbers are there to show off both ladies to their gorgeous technicolor advantage. Williams is a magnificent specimen and Lucy, well she’s just made for color with that blazing red hair. I love Ethel Smith and her hepcat organ playing. It tickled me to see the charity ball number with the Mexican/South American theme. Ahhh, the good ol’ “Good Neighbor Policy” is in full swing in the 40’s. Whatever happened to that policy? Boy, how times have changed.

It’s crazy to make a head-to-head comparison of the cast, right?  The “Libeled Lady” cast can shade their performance, whereas the “Easy To Wed” cast plays it just a tad broader. I might be crazy to compare apples to oranges, Ali to Louis, DiMaggio to Jeter, Sinatra to Bing…or Dino…or Nat King Cole.  But awwwww what the heck…let’s go crazy:

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MYRNA LOY / ESTHER WILLIAMS – (( CONNIE ALLENBURY ))

LIBELED LADY ( XVI ) EASY TO WED ( II )

Whereas Gladdy just wants to get married, Connie Allenbury has a protective wall up. Connie trusts no man, thinking they’re all after her money. No one can be huffy and turn her nose up in the air like Myrna Loy. And a cute little nose it is. Loy and Esther Williams are the “straight man” in this comic fare.  Myrna is perfect. You can see she “gets” the joke. She looks divine and is properly haughty, you know, as heiressesess are. She’s frigid, no wait…frosty. Those almond-shaped eyes of hers could cut you to shreds. But out on the floating lanai, we see Loy’s warmth and friendliness. There’s no doubt of her elegance and bearing in this movie.

Esther Williams plays Connie not quite as frosty as Loy; maybe more on the stuck-up side. My friend Wendy says of Williams:

“Esther was always the big prey in her movies, cool and aloof, but ultimately caught by the hero.”

‘The big prey.’ I like the sound of that. Esther always seemed to be the cold one in her films, chased and eventually warmed up and won over. And yes, by film’s end both Loy and Williams get warmed by their charming leading men. I love Esther and her rounded ways in this; she’s not as cheddar-sharp as Myrna. She’s at ease in her acting, very natural. There’s a regular girl underneath that shell of theirs. They both don’t really have much to do ( the Gladys role is the pivotal one, ) but they sure look great doing it. Believable. And dressed to the nines in the bargain. I have to chuckle at how M-G-M worked Esther into the water.

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WILLIAM POWELL / VAN JOHNSON – (( BILL CHANDLER ))

LIBELED LADY ( X )   EASY TO WED ( IV )

Both actors are good as the character: Bill Chandler. Powell was born to wear white tie and tails, and Johnson fills out his tuxedo very nicely. He’s a big guy. ( I swoon over white or cream-colored tux jackets men used to wear. Sigh!! ) They both handle light comedy well. Powell’s pitch is sophistication. He sounds upper crust. Johnson sounds a bit of a wise-ass and definitely all-American. I’ve no doubt both are ladies men. One could dabble with any society heiress or one of the 400, and the other brings it down a notch to simple American pleasures like dancing and ball games, and be more regular, down-to-earth. In both films, the duck hunting/fly fishing scene goes on much too long and is not funny to me at all but for an initial chuckle. This is like a commercial break for me. But I was happy to see Powell all loosey-goosey in the water, as limber as a fish.

Sometimes I think Powell is too stiff and stuffed a shirt. He might be too polite and mannered to get a girl in the clinches real quick. But I might have to eat those words; recently seeing Powell do a lot more of his thing in the early 30’s, I’d have to say his arm was always wrapped around some girl. Van Johnson seems more easy breezy. He’s boyish, makes jokes, is the butt of jokes. Don’t ask me why I crack up when Lucille Ball hurls insults at him ( “baboon” “ape” ) and Johnson says: “An ape can do anything a man…can…do. And let’s leave personalities out of this.”

LIBELED LADY ( XIII )   LIBELED LADY ( XIV )

I loved the maturity of Powell and Loy talking in the cabin; their real getting-to-know-each-other scene. I also loved the playfulness of Johnson and Williams playing marbles; gosh they’re so pretty together, aren’t they? Powell and Tracy have great chemistry with each other and THAT is the real find of “Libeled Lady” for me. But Johnson also knows how to handle his pal ( Keenan Wynn ) very well. They’ve got beautiful rhythm as well.

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SPENCER TRACY / KEENAN WYNN – (( WARREN HAGGERTY ))

LIBELED LADY ( IX )  EASY TO WED ( III )

The next time I say “Spencer Tracy is an un-sexy, boxy and granite-like man with little sense of humor,” would you just say to me: “D’uhhhh…’Libeled Lady’.” Thanks. See, the big takeaway I took away from “Libeled Lady” is the teamwork between Tracy and Powell. Why had I not notice that before? ( There are none so blind…  ) They are both so natural, speaking their lines as though they emanated from their own thoughts. They fluidly work off each other…Powell having the slightly upper hand since he’s got Tracy over a barrel in this plan. Their comic timing is impeccable. In fact, I like Tracy and Powell better than Tracy and Gable, and that’s sayin’ sumthin’. Powell and Tracy seem to be on the same plateau whereas working opposite Gable…well, he’s so alpha that it’s just off the hook in matching him. Tracy can dial up the infuriation or the somewhat hen-peckedness he is with Harlow while he also throws her under the bus. He plays more notes than Keenan Wynn.

And that’s not a bad thing; Tracy’s an actor and Wynn’s a comic.  With Wynn, you know what you’re getting: a RAT! And you smell a rat as soon as you see him coming. His “Warren” is more bombastic than Spencer Tracy and plays just one note: conniving, under-handed, double-crossing. Tracy is slightly subtler. But he’s just as devious and underhanded. Yeah, Tracy is the better actor, but Keenan is the better rat. I loved watching him navigate through this plot. Gladys is very clear: “If you don’t want to marry me just say so!” Both Warren Haggertys are willing to pimp Gladdy out at the drop of a newspaper headline. I liked both actors as Haggerty, but Wynn edges out Tracy because he’s so obvious. Wynn and Johnson have great chemistry together. ( “I’m bleeding. I’m bleeding. I AM bleeding!!” ) I’m not sure if either “Warren” really cared for Gladys or just didn’t want Bill to have her. But if you need a snake in the grass, I wouldn’t have Keenan Wynn any other way.

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JEAN HARLOW / LUCILLE BALL – (( GLADYS ))

LIBELED LADY ( VI ) EASY TO WED ( XIII )

I think Harlow and Lucy should kiss the hem of their agents’ trousers for getting them the role of Gladys. ( Alright…so maybe the standard 10% is thanks enough. ) Maybe I should be kissing their agents for getting these two gals such a great role. They really have the featured part of the movie. It all hinges on them putting the boys’ scheme into play and she’s got to play it two ways.

Whether she is blonde or redhead, HELL HATH NO FURY… What an entrance they both make, storming into the newsroom. ( When Lucy enters, papers fly. She is a hurricane. ) Harlow shines brightest in a showy role. She sinks her shimmery satin persona into you and doesn’t let go from the moment she bursts on the scene loaded for bear. And the bear is Spencer Tracy. I feel bad for Gladys. Doesn’t the movie try and make her seem like the bad guy by the end of this? Like she’s the fly in the ointment of love;  like she is the Shelley ( “A Place in the Sun” ) Winters albatross around Cupid’s neck? So SHE’s thwarting  Young Love? Oy vey! The girl just wants to get married.

LIBELED LADY ( II )

You need someone to toss a line better than anyone in the business, besides Eve Arden? Well you’ve got two of the best of them in these films, ( Harlow & Ball ) both proven masters. Harlow can dial it up or tone it down at will. She could pour on the purposely over-acting lovey dovey goo one minute, and then as soon as her ‘audience’ disappears, she’s slamming Powell the next. She  could be brassy, she could modulate her tone. I think of Tracy calling her up asking if she wants to get married. She’s in a satin cloud of a bed and answers: “What do you think?” I’m thinking that’s Harlow’s real voice. I love her good natured teasing when Powell has to learn fly fishing. ( “Remember, there’s a man on second.” ) I love when she “acts” the loving wife in front of others. In the car on the way to the Allenbury’s cabin, she practices the speech she’ll say when she busts up the joint between Bill and Connie as if she were Bernhardt. I liked her at the breakfast table when she just wants to talk to Bill during their ‘truce’ – see,  she’s developed some feelings for him. Poor girl, that’ll be her downfall.

EASY TO WED ( VI )

I love Lucy. Lucille Ball is fantastic as Gladys, too. We never knew what Harlow’s Gladys did for a living, but Lucy’s Gladys is a showgirl. She wears the hell out of those clothes. Her singing may be dubbed, but Lucy can still sell a dance number. ( I just love her umbrella toss at the end of the number when it doesn’t open! ) I love her yelling. But I love love love when she and Johnson goes back to Keenan Wynn’s office to say she’s not going through with the law suit. I crack up at her diction and love how she rolls her “R”s and enuciates: “Warren.” She’s gone high-brow. She’s good natured, but she’s a redhead. Her idle runs high, so don’t get her angry. Lucille Ball looks good, sounds good and sinks her teeth into this good role.

LIBELED LADY ( FURRED )    EASY TO WED ( I )

Faux bigamies, invalid divorces, the libel suit is dropped and everyone can live happily ever after. Except Gladys. Here is where it gets poignant when Gladys has to lose out. Bill, Connie and Warren have a good laugh at Gladys’ expense. And Gladys fighting back is sad. Lucy and Myrna handle that scene a little better than their counterparts. Lucy’s hurt puts a lump in my throat. But the lesson learned for all of them is you can’t steal love. Everyone winds up being with the right partner, and it all does end happily ever after in both films.

Again, my sincere thanks to BACKLOTS for letting my new blog play in the Dueling Divas sandbox with the big kids. If any one of you has not seen “Libeled Lady” or “Easy to Wed” you must put them in your dvd machine quick, fast and in a hurry. That is, if you like to laugh. They’re BOTH divas, and both gems in their own way.

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MY FAVORITE FILMS OF 1946

MY FAVORITE FILMS OF 1946

The war is over and things are still a little dark on my list. I’ve seen thirty-five movies this year, and what a wonderful year for movies. I mean how can I go wrong with a list that contains the gorgeousness of Cary Grant, not to mention The Blonde, The Brunette and The Red Head of the 1940’s.

Let the List begin…

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“BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES” – ( William Wyler )

( 1946 ) BEST YEARS

You have to be ready to invest your time with this movie. Wyler covers the waterfront with the depth and breadth of what war does to those who serve and those who stay at home. They may be at home, but time does not stop for them. The film is cast perfectly with us following the story of three soldiers whose assimilation back into society is very different. Thoughtfull, layered, a very well-deserved choice as the Academy Award-winning BEST PICTURE.

MY FAVORITE MOMENT: The last scene in the film – Dana Andrews walks over to Teresa Wright and kisses her to swelling music. Her hat falls and their kiss goes into the fade-out. < SIgh! > A life-affirming masterpiece.

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“DECOY” – ( Jack Bernhard )

( 1946 ) DECOY

You see that look on Herb’s face? That’s not the look of love. It’s the look of fear when the girl you love is crazy, and the man next to you is a gangster. Yeah, you’re being taken for a ride in this interesting thriller. Gangster Robert Armstrong ( years away from his hamstringing King Kong ) has died in the gas chamber, but is revived by Rudley in order to show Gillie where stolen money he stole is buried. Even a mangy old cat knows not to give its nine lives to a money hungry blonde. Jean is wonderful in this,

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“DUEL IN THE SUN” – ( King Vidor )

( 1946 ) DUEL IN SUN

Yeah yeah yeah, I know what they dub this movie. “Lust in the Dust.”

I love it. It’s big. It’s sordid. It’s Cain and Abel. And the prize…Jennifer Jones. I thought she and Peck played against type. Selznick tries to outdo “GWTW” and some think he made a mess of it. There were a lot of movies to choose from in 1946. But this one gets me. You’ve got a Gish, a Barrymore, a Houston and a Butterfly in this epic. And Peck’s bad boy is like Cary Grant in “Notorious” – too stubborn to admit he flat out loves Jones; could have saved himself a lot of trouble. But, what woman sometimes wants to have a shoot-out on a mountain top with her man.

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“GILDA” – ( Charles Vidor )

( 1946 )

FAVORITE MOMENTS:

  • The hair toss.
  • “Put the Blame On Mame” ( You can go here for a reminder )
  • Rita.

One of the best acting performances of her career. She goes from sensuous to hurt little girl to temptress to simply, just a woman in love. It’s a great S & M classic.

You can read my full review of the movie—-> here.

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“THE KILLERS” – ( Robert Siodmak )

( 1946 ) THE KILLERS

“I did something wrong. Once.” Ha! I’ll say. A girl…a guy…a heist gone bad.

<——-I love this shot in the movie. He can’t look at her, and she’s in control. Don’cha love a girl who can double triple cross you?

To make this noir souffle, start with a smoldering Ava, add a pinch of lovesick Burt Lancaster ( in a t-shirt ), swirl a Hemingway short story into a taut tight mystery. And voila, you have one of the classic films noir of the 40’s. Ahhhhhhh…delicioso.

FAVORITE MOMENTS: ( * ) At the party where Burt sees Ava for the first time, the resigned look his date, Virginia Christine gives as she watches Burt fall for Ava. And later, how she sits on Sam Levene’s lap now happily married to him.

( * ) In a room full of men, Ava tells husband Albert Dekker: “You touch me and you won’t live till morning.” Come on, admit it. The girl’s got moxie. The girl’s got chutzpah.

( * ) The jig is up and Ava pleads with a dying Albert Dekker for an alibi. I love Levene’s line: “Don’t ask a dying man to lie his soul into hell!” It’s the best line in film noir.

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“MY REPUTATION” – ( Curtis Bernhardt )

( 1946 ) MY REPUTATION

Yeah, it’s a woman’s picture. It’s sort of Stanwyck’s version of “Now, Voyager.” She’s a widow dominated by her mother, repressed, has no real life of her own but lives through her two sons. A tall handsome soldier will bring her out of her widow’s weeds. Yeah, it’s a ‘Woman’s Picture.’ Wanna make something of it?! One of my favorite Stanwyck roles. She’s nice and doesn’t have to blow the house down. Good seeing her with her ol’ screen pal, George Brent. They have chemistry. And by the way, Eve Arden is her best friend.

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“NOTORIOUS” – ( Alfred Hitchcock )

( 1946 ) NOTORIOUS

Hitchcock does what Hitchcock does best. Suspense. The crane shot down to the key. The uranium bottle smashing. Evil right in your face. A mother-in-law like Madame Konstantin. And then there’s the rocky romance of two people who you know should be together from the very beginning. What a great story, by a master storyteller. By the end, Grant rescues his lady fair. But not before letting her get mixed up with a pack of Nazis. Hitchcock.

MY FAVORITE MOMENTS: Grant and Bergman on the balcony. No, not the kissing the scene. These two:

( * ) When he comes back knowing her assignment. Bergman quietly pleads with Grant to tell her how he feels; to tell her what he could not tell them. Awww man Cary, tell her, you dope! I can’t quite give you a pass for being a fat-head. ACK! ( Well…maybe…I…can.  )

( * ) Bergman’s admonishment:  “What a little pal you are, Dev. Right below the belt every time.”

Grant and Bergman will meet up again twelve years later, in a comedy INDISCREET which you can read a little about here in my friend Christy’s article.

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“THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE” – ( Tay Garnett )

( 1946 ) THE POSTMAN

It’s the roll of a lipstick case that gets the uhhh, ball rolling. Who’d have thunk there’d be all this drama in a California roadside diner. With an older man, his young wife, and a young virile drifter in the mix, what could happen? Murder is hatched and baked in the hot California sun. You know, down the road from MILDRED’S. Murder doesn’t smell like honeysuckle. It smells like burning hamburger. And don’t worry OSSESSIONE is on my ‘to watch’ list.

FAVORITE MOMENTS:  ( * ) Hume Cronyn sparring with Leon Ames. I love Hume telling Lana and Garfield “I’m handling it.” I love that beady eyed rat bastid.

( * ) Audrey Totter…

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“THE STRANGER” – ( Orson Welles )

( 1946 ) THE STRANGER

I’m new to this movie and this movie is new to me. It’s a new favorite and definitely one of my top picks for this year. Young marries Welles and now she and her New England town have a dyed-in-the-wool Nazi on their hands. Since we know more about her husband than she does, we watch with baited breath as Young discovers her professor/hubby is not what he appears to be. Welles and his nemesis, Edward G. Robinson are great in this cat and mouse game. ( I read Agnes Moorehead was considered for the Robinson role. My mind reels at how great THAT would have been. ) I swear Loretta Young is two different women; in the 30’s she was a doe-eyed, pre-code hottie and here in the 40’s her mature quiet beauty screams respectability and reserve. I was impressed by the suspenseful way the story unfolds, and with Young’s acting. Richard Long was very good as the kid brother.

FAVORITE MOMENT: Young screams at Welles not to touch her and hands him a poker to kill her with. ( “Use this!” )

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“THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS” – ( Lewis Milestone )

Kirk Douglas And Barbara StanwyckIn 'The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers'

Murder, mystery, blackmail and sick twisted love all rolled up into black and white glory. I love love LOVE Stanwyck in this. She’s not evil. I think Martha Ivers is just, well…misunderstood. She’s a business woman covering up a dark secret from childhood. That’s got to take a toll on a gal; makes her do the things she does. Van Heflin unknowingly opens a can of worms as the childhood friend who realizes too late he ‘can’t go home again.’ A husky voiced blonde ( Lizabeth Scott ) needs a fresh start but gets entangled in the Ivers web. And a weak-willed husband ( Kirk Douglas in his screen debut ) drowns his sorrow in alcohol knowing he’s married a woman who despises him. Keeping and unlocking secrets. Miklos Rosza’s music. Stanwyck and Scott facing off. What’s not to love. 1946 – it was a very good year for movies.

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