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|Index||26 reviews in total|
Stanwyck plays a kept woman for a married politician. Out of her sheer devotion to him she decides not to cause a scandal when she falls pregnant. Instead, she disappears, but no sooner does the politician track her down and the film gets swept away by the melodrama of a soap opera. But what a fine melodrama this is. Capra managed to take the fat out of the story and move through time in great leaps and bounds. This film is full of surprises and never sells out to the moral crusaders of the time. Further more, the characters are human, playful, you feel for them as the story slowly sucks you in until you have no choice but to go along with the melodramatic symphony that plays with your heart and mind.
"Forbidden" is no doubt pure melodrama. Frank Capra, its director expressed in his autobiography, that he " should have stood in bed". Fortunately he didn't because although the story is "soggy and 99.44% pure soap opera", using his own words, it still retains powerful moments and excellent interpretations from its main actors: Barbara Stanwyck and Adolphe Menjou. Their first meeting at a cruise to Havana, with Menjou so drunk that he ends in a wrong cabin (number 66 instead of 99) where Stanwyck, bored and happy to encounter somebody, is one of many moments where Capra's talent is evident. Raplh Bellamy is also fine as the managing editor of a newspaper, where gossip is always welcome. No doubt that this early talkie, with some flaws or doubtful situations, still partially conceals that behind the camera there is one of the masters of cinema: Frank Capra. I clearly recommend not to miss this imperfect but valuable movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I kept in mind the technology available to the filmmakers in 1932, and was thoroughly impressed by the tale Capra manages to tell here. Stanwyck's character just needed a little thrill and found it on a boat trip to Havana, beginning a love affair that will test her discretion and tact throughout her life. Like a responsive car, the script follows each turn precisely and truthfully, our heroine responding to each new crisis the way we would hope she does. This is what makes the film so impressive; for such an early picture the characters all ring true and there are undeniable moments of early brilliance - my favorite being Stanwyck gunning down her husband to protect her lover's secret. A lot of Capra's favorite character actors he would use again and again in films to come show up here, making it a nice watch for fans of his work. Despite it's age, 'Forbidden' is still an impressive piece of work.
The three principle actors are the best thing about "Forbidden" released in 1932 by Columbia Pictures. Like most pre-code films, it dealt more frankly with story lines like extramarital affairs and unwed mothers. Lonely Stanwyck meets an outgoing man (Adolphe Menjou) and falls in love, not knowing he is married. She tries to do the right thing, staying away from him, and then has his baby without his knowledge. Well, they meet again, are off and on again, all the while Menjou's political career soars, and he stays married, raising the child as his and his wife's. Stanwyck stays the "other woman" for decades. Then there is the sleazy newspaper man (Ralph Bellamy) out to get Menjou and destroy his political career, and is also hot for Stanwyck, who works for his newspaper. It all turns pretty sordid, to say the least. The film has its flaws, and the script at times jumps about, but Barbara Stanwyck is good in anything she does, and it was nice to see Adolphe Menjou actually playing someone who is actually in love (and rather sweet in his own way) and not a sleazy stage producer, which seemed to be his usual role in the 1930's! I had no idea the newspaperman was Ralph Bellamy - he is very young and good looking here, although a slime ball. But he too turns in a good performance. These films remain important because they remind of us a time when films were more honest and blunt in their dealing with real life situations - before the enforcement of the Hays Code in 1934. This film was directed by Frank Capra - who would direct Stanwyck in some of her most memorable roles.
And that includes "Stella Dallas." Another character in this movie
falls her "the world's best loser." She plays it well but it's a far
cry from the jazzy characters for which she is probably most famous.
When one talks about range, one has only to look at this or "Stella
Dallas" (a better known but, in my view, inferior film) and then at
"The Lady Eve" and "Ball of Fire." Not to mention "Double Indemnity"!
She begins this as a wallflower. Children taunt her as "four-eyes."
Even at her most poignant, though, nobody could buy that for the hardy
Stanwyck. She goes on a cruise and falls in love. And, oh boy! What a
mistake that is! A married man, a child -- and lots more. (She meets
married Adolph Menjou on the cruise and the child is born soon after;
so this is not giving much away.) Through all of it, she is stoic. She
says she's happy but we know she couldn't be.
It's very well done by all concerned.
What struck me about this film is the fact that although the story spans about 20 years, the hairstyles, clothes, cars, furniture and general infrastructure remain steadfastly "1932" throughout. Makes me wonder why they didn't start the film in 1912 - budget concerns over the cost of 1912 production values? Anyway, this melodrama is pretty routine for its time - contrived, fast-moving plot structure dealing with "naughty" subject matter, in this case cohabitation outside wedlock and its consequences. Barbara Stanwyck, Adolphe Menjou and Ralph Bellamy are all quite arresting in their roles and there are some nice turns of dialog and at least one memorable camera angle during an emotional scene in which the only visible part of Stanwyck's face - mostly concealed behind Menjou's shoulder - is the area around her right eye, filmed through the spaces between balusters on a staircase. Whether this scene was meant to reflect the shadowy nature of the couple's relationship or just a way to make the scene more fun to watch, it's a standout.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Are the cab ride early on as Bob tries to convince Lulu that the affair
can work. She is near hysterics, inconsolable and bolts the cab on into
an absolute deluge of rain. He follows, literally begging her to
reconsider. She's adamant, won't be swayed and leaves Bob on a park
bench (thoroughly vanquished) in the rain, as it rivets down the bill
of his hat and onto his overcoat. And get this: the scene stays tracked
as Lulu retreats into the rain and disappears. Capra holds it steady,
seconds pass, how many? More than enough for me. Lulu returns out of
the mist, returns to Bob and the tragedy advances.
The second scene for me is the scene where Lulu murders her husband (Bellamy) in cold blood. All the frustrations wrought upon Lulu, all the settling, all the denial, all the hatred (for marrying him) is loosed upon Bellamy here. The first two shots (mid chest height) surely kill this man, the fact that Lulu goes ahead and empties the pistol into him to requisite clicks on empty chambers with that look of utter contempt only Stanwyck could display exposes the wounded Lulu in bitter truth.
It reminds one of the ending scene in "The Last Gangster" where Edward G. Robinson stops his adversary's stated vow to ruin Robinson's sons bright future thru scandalous charges. Robinson simply counters this stoic threat with the words: "no you won't" and proceeds to empty a pistol into him.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Very melodramatic soap opera about a lonely small town gal named Lulu
(called "old lady four eyes" by a couple of local boys) who longs for
romance, so takes her savings and sails for a two-week vacation in
Havana. She soon meets a drunken Adolphe Menjou who has ended up in her
stateroom by mistake - romance ensues. Now here's the rub - it is quite
awhile after she has been seeing this man (and they have fallen in
love) that she finds out he has given her a fake name - and is married!
A baby, plus many more twists and turns to follow.
Well, this is a well-done film, with absorbing plot - plus Barbara Stanwyck gives a real star performance here as Lulu - acting up a storm, she's just great and really helps make this film a good one. Now, there's some things in this film that seem a little nonsensical or odd to me - Lulu is first seen as a sort of librarian/spinster type - but quickly changes into a smartly dressed, attractive lady when she leaves on her trip, and never changes back (the original plot element abandoned). The wife, described as an "invalid" who Menjou is forced to stay with and care for, is first introduced using a cane (just barely) - but she is at all times seen as completely strong and capable (hardly an invalid). And the biggest thing of all is that I really question some of the decisions and sacrifices Lulu is willing to go through all for the sake of this one man - mainly the fact that she seems so ready, willing, and able to leave her child and abandon her role as the child's mother so extremely easily! All in all, though, I found this to be a fine film, well worth seeing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(There are Spoilers) Heart wrenchingly effective 1930's tear-jerker
that grabs you right from the start and never lets go until the ending
credits. With you hoping some way that for once, no matter how corny
and unbelievable, that there will be a Hollywood-style happy ending. 25
year-old Barbara Stanwyck plays the young librarian Lulu Smith who just
had enough of the dull and boring country life that she's been leading
and decides to take her life savings, $1,200.00,and go on a Caribbean
Meeting this middle-aged man Bob Grover, Adolphe Menjou, when he got his cabin room mixed up with hers Lulu ends up spending her vacation time in Havana with Bob who together paint the town red. Back in the states the two fall madly in love with each other but when it comes to tie the knot Bob has a confession to make to Lulu. The fact is that he's not only married but involved in the states politics where leaving his crippled and loving wife Helen, Dorothy Peterson, would destroy his political career. In one of the most amazing and explosive scenes involving a breakup of a couple Lulu practically throws Bob out of her apartment as he, knowing that he's the guilty party, pleads for forgiveness telling an hurt and outraged Lulu that his door will always be opened to her.
Time marches on as Bob becomes the states elected Attorney General. Lulu alone and almost homeless has Bob's baby, Roberta, whom she at first refuses to see in the maternity ward because the child reminds her of him. Still holding a flame for Lulu Bob tracks her down and finds out that she's alone, living with her and his three year-old daughter Roberta. He then continues his secret and illicit affair with her where at the same time puts on a false face, to the public, that he's a happily married man.
The bottom falls out of both Bob and Lulu's secret relationship when the sleaze-ball editor of that yellow rag "The Record" Al Holland, Ralph Bellamy, spots little Roberta with Lulu. Bob who's political career, for some reason or another, Holland's determined to destroy and smells, with the rat-like instincts that he has, a big and provocative story at Bob Grover's expense. Being told by Lulu, whom the creep secretly has the hots for, that she's the governess of Roberta who's Bob and Helen's adopted daughter Holland go back to his office to get the truth about just who little Reborta is. This has her real mother Lulu, who get a job at the paper as it's lovelorn communists, go check out the mothers background which just happens to be herself!
In the end the you know what hits the fan with Bob, even though he's dying from an incurable and unnamed illness, getting elected governor of the state. Holland whom Lulu married, in order to keep the slime ball from exposing her and her and Bob's 19 year-old daughter Roberta, gets the official hospital records that his wife Lulu is both Roberta's mother and that Bob is her dad. Even more explosive Roberta was the results of an illicit affair between the two! Instead of acting like a normal and feeling human being and keeping it all quite Holland runs out as if his pants were on fire to get the big story to hit the streets, via his paper, that morning. Instead the lowlife creep gets blasted by his now totally hysterical, from him beating her up and about to expose Roberta, wife Lulu.
Really touching final with a dying governor Bob Grover pardoning his lover and mother of his daughter Lulu from a life-sentence, for gunning down Al Holland, and leaving half of his estate in her name. Lulu now old and with her deciding to keep the truth from Roberta, as well as the widowed Mrs. Grover, to herself and alone in the world does whats best for everyone. Not wanting to destroy Bob's reputation, by him being a man who cheated on his wife, Lulu both honorably and unselfishly tears up Bob's hand written last will and testament, throwing it in a city garbage can as he movie ends.
Schmaltzy yet powerful film about a love that wasn't meant to be. In the end it showed those involved in it, Lulu & Bob, that the truth as painful as it would be, like Castor or Cod Liver oil, would have been the best medicine to cure it. The truth in the end would have saved both their lives, and ironically even Bob's wife Helen, from the destruction that was to later engulf them by keeping it a secret.
Stanwyck and Menjou are on top form here, a real pleasure to watch, and the camera-work is exquisite; the story/pacing is weak in places but you won't mind this much (perhaps hardly notice) unless you're immune to the former. The film depicts, over a period of about 20 years, a complex clandestine love-relationship between the two leads, leaving some space for individual interpretation - not at all like most films made under the appalling thirty year tyranny of the Hayes code introduced a couple of years later. Forbidden is a serious, thought-provoking and often very moving film, with careful, 'arty' composition and psychologically-loaded lingering shots, but it also contains moments of melodrama (not in bad way) and humour (laugh-out-loud but quirky, not slapstick). Highly recommended, along with Capra/Stanwyck's The Bitter Tea of General Yen, made the following year. I give it a 7 - reluctantly, in my effort to be objective with regards to the story. I watched it on the big screen and I 'felt' it as an 8.
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