FERNANDO’s CORNER – Posted July 13th, 2015
Today I revisited a very amusing Noir Melodrama, which I had seen back in 2009: John Brahm’s “Guest in the House” (1944) (United Artists). Sadly, there isn’t a decent print or copy of this film around. Snce it is on public domain, we have to watch the poor copies available on YouTube or on the DVD market, which is a pity, because I can’t fully appreciate Lee Garmes’ claustrophobic cinematography. As a pal from the Silver Screen Oasis Message Board stated years ago, this film is a doozy!
I still do not know if the purpose of the beginning of the film was to make the audience believe that Evelyn Heath (Anne Baxter) was a frail creature or not, because I immediately realized that she was a phony; an insane phony. In a way, Evelyn is sort of reminiscent of Joan Fontaine’s characters in “Born to be Bad” and “Ivy”; in the first movie she’s spoiled and manipulative but in the latter her spoiled nature borders on lunacy. In “Guest…” I like when Jerome Cowan’s character compared her entrance to that of Sarah Bernhardt on stage! I feel that he was the only one who realized WHO Evelyn was.
The film is very entertaining and absorbing and benefits from a very talented cast and a variety of characters. The best performances are, in my opinion, those given by Aline MacMahon and Ruth Warrick, who underplay their roles smartly, and Ralph Bellamy who for once does not play “the other man”, but the subject of Evelyn’s obsession and fixation. He has great chemistry with lovely Miss Warrick, a very attractive woman and a most talented actress and their scenes together are very sexy in a natural and realistic way. Also, concerning his mature relationship with his lovely model (the beautiful Marie MacDonald), it is very adult and well-done, until Evelyn spoils it all with her maleficence.
Anne Baxter gives a fine portrayal of the insane and sick Evelyn, but sometimes she was a little bit “too much” and over-the-top for my taste. The ending of the film is quite abrupt and over-the-top too. But, all in all it’s a splendid Noirish thriller and melodrama. It also has an eerie quality which compares in that aspect with such films “Gaslight”, “Rebecca”, “Suspicion”, “The Uninvited” and “And Then There Were None.”
I wish I will be able to see a good print of this film someday and perhaps, even the 121 minutes version listed on IMDB, which I fell might be superior. The one available on YouTube is 96 or 98 minutes long.
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