Plot Synopsis by Paul Brenner
Attempting to Americanize Greta Garbo to appeal to American audiences (since most of the foreign markets for Hollywood product had been cut off due to World War II), M.G.M.’s Two-Faced Woman succeeded in making Garbo angry enough to announce her retirement from the screen. Two-Faced Woman was Garbo’s final screen appearance, as the legendary actress slipped into a reclusive existence that lasted until her death. This George Cukor romantic comedy casts Garbo as ski instructor Karin Borg Blake. She gives lessons to wealthy American playboy Larry Blake (Melvyn Douglas), and the two fall in love and marry even though Larry has a girlfriend named Griselda Vaughn (Constance Bennett) waiting for him back in New York. Returning to New York, Karin fears that Griselda will win Larry back. In an effort to foil Larry’s imagined dalliance, Karin poses as her own twin sister, Katherine, hoping to get Larry to fall in love with her instead of Griselda. Larry is onto the scheme and plays along with her, pretending to fall in love with Katherine. But this infuriates Karin, who can’t believe that her husband would fall in love with her sister, and she storms back to her ski resort..
Marguerite is a courtesan in Paris. She falls deeply in love with a young man of promise, Armand Duval. When Armand’s father begs her not to ruin his hope of a career and position by marrying Armand, she acquiesces and leaves her lover. However, when poverty and terminal illness overwhelm her, Marguerite discovers that Armand has not lost his love for her. Continue reading
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A supposedly superior remake of the 1938 Swedish film of the same name that starred Ingrid Bergman. It’s based on the French play Il etait une fois by Francis De Croisset and written by Donald Ogden Stewart and Elliot Paul. Capable studio director George Cukor (“The Women”/”Susan and God”) does his usual fine job handling actors, creating a finely drawn tense atmosphere as he makes the best of this ridiculous courtroom melodrama into a pleasing film despite the inane dialogue and incredulous machinations in the storytelling. Joan Crawford jumped at the chance to star in this juicy role despite having to play a facially disfigured woman (at least for half the film), which she was advised by even Louis B. Mayer (MGM head) that it could be costly for the glamour actress in the future. Instead it turned out to be one of her more acclaimed roles and did nothing but promote her career further as a serious dramatic actress (she won an Oscar for Mildred Pierce in 1945, which she claims this film had a cumulative effect in helping her win that award). Crawford’s scar makeup was credited to Jack Dawn, who created makeup for such films as The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941). Continue reading
What will a father do to give his son everything?
Obsessed with the desire to give his only son the best of everything, a man destroys his whole world in this riveting drama starring Spencer Tracy and Deborah Kerr (in an Academy Award-nominated performance*). When the boy is five, his father (Tracy) commits arson to pay for a vital operation. This fateful step launches a rocketlike career of business success. In the process he ruins his partner, destroys his wife’s love for him and then her will to live, and finally faces jail himself for what turns out to have been an empty dream. Based on the play by Robert Morley and Noel Langley. *1949: Best Actress.
— WAC case synopsis Continue reading
Mrs. Stephen Haines, or Mary (Norma Shearer) finds out from her wicked grapevine of friends that her husband Steven is leaving her for a vicious salesgirl turned golddigger, Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford). Mary has friends, but the majority of them are gossip-loving breakup sightseers who make cynical bets on who will prevail. Mary has a reputation for being unfashionably loyal and domestically boring; Crystal has them all intimidated with her ambition and gall. Mary goes out West to a dude ranch for her divorce, there witnessing fights between her ‘friends’, mostly over men. She also sees two alternatives to her predicament – Peggy (Joan Fontaine) rushes back to be reunited with her husband, while the rich Countess DeLave (Mary Boland) is a saphead romantic on her 3rd or 4th divorce. Continue reading
My Fair Lady is one of the screen’s joyous achievements, an elegant musical filled with adult characters who think before they speak. Exquisitely produced by Warner Bros, it represents the zenith of the movie musical as an art form and as popular entertainment. Rex Harrison leads an impeccable cast, and, yes, that’s Marni Nixon singing for Audrey Hepburn, but Hepburn is perfectly cast otherwise. The major star of the film is perhaps set designer/costume designer Cecil Beaton, whose visual contributions immediately impacted European and U.S. fashion trends. One of the best-looking movies ever made, My Fair Lady took eight Oscars, including Best Picture. Hepburn failed to be nominated in the Best Actress category, which was won by Julie Andrews for Mary Poppins, in what many observers saw as backlash against Andrews’ not being cast in the movie after originating the role of Eliza on stage. — Richard Gilliam Continue reading
Ava Gardner was never more alluring than as the half-caste heroine of Bhowani Junction. Set during India’s battle for independence from Britain, the film begins with Gardner returning to her native land after spending several years in England. Her true loyalties, and her own sense of who she really is, are put to the test by the two men in her life: Stewart Granger, whose job it is to prevent saboteurs from destroying the trains at Bhowani Junction, and Bill Travers, another half-caste. When she kills a potential rapist in self-defense, Gardner is given comfort by Communist insurrectionist Peter Illing, further dividing her fidelities. A climactic attempt on the life of Mahatma Gandhi provides a rousing finish to this romantic melodrama. Bhowani Junction was adapted from the novel by John Masters. ~ Hal Erickson @allmovie.com Continue reading