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The thoughts that people think are never the same as the words they speak - and in this movie, we can hear the thoughts. Gordon Shaw was a flyer who was shot down and killed during WWI. Nina would have married him before he left, but her father forbade the marriage. Charlie is a friend, but Nina does not love him and he is too timid- too shy - to tell her the way that he feels about her. Sam is her husband and her love disappears after the ceremony when she finds out that there is mental illness in his family and that there can be no children. To have the child she wants, but cannot have with Sam, she has a secret affair with Ned, who wants her to leave Sam. Gordon is the result of the affair, but he does not know Ned is his real father. Nina continues to play with the emotions of all three men and devote herself only to Gordon. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A Strange Little Film, But Definitely in a Good Way
In Clark Gable, M-G-M found the perfect compliment to Norma Shearer. Both epitomized the strength of their particular gender, and visually, one could not find a better looking on-screen couple. In their first film pairing, in 1931s A Free Soul, the two created sparks together, and Shearer, already an established star, had enormous `chemistry' with newcomer Gable. The success of that film (it earned an Oscar for Lionel Barrymore's acting, and a nomination for Shearer's) lead to two other successful pairings, both topping the success of A Free Soul (not back then, but from a modern filmgoers point of view). The first of these films was 1932s Strange Interlude (the last was 1939s Idiot's Delight, with Gable's famous `Puttin' on the Ritz' number), an adaptation of the Eugene O'Neil drama about how a web of lies and deception can ruin lives. Of course, there has to be a catch: the characters reveal their most personal thoughts to the audience with `inner monologues.' On the stage, these speeches were recited by the actor while the rest of the cast froze in their actions. With the advantage of film, however, the actors simply `voice over' their thoughts as they think them. Although it works very well, it must have been a hard thing to do. Just think of what it would have been like on the set. You not only had to know what you were doing, you had to think how you would look thinking, and realize how it would look when combined with a voice over. You had to imagine your lines, time them perfectly, and record them later. In some scenes, all of the actors are `thinking' one after another, meaning that there would be minutes of filming that would merely be changes in facial expressions. Even if it hadn't worked at all, one would have to give them credit for trying. But luckily, Shearer was a star from the silent days, and this proves no problem for her. Her actions match her thoughts beautifully. Gable, too, although not a silent star, began his career as an extra in silent films, and he handles his `thoughts' quite adequately. Although not all of the readings and reactions are perfect, one must try to understand how difficult this must have been. That every single syllable does not sound preposterous is a small miracle; that many of the thoughts and reactions are lucid and clear is a big one. The story is an engrossing one, almost a precursor to Peyton Place, and only a few years later the Production Code would have prohibited such a racy story being filed (and this was considerably tuned down from the original four-and-a-half-hour long play)! Shearer is Nina Leeds, a neurotic young beauty whose fiancée is killed in WWI. She marries, rather impulsively, a charming young suitor, but when she learns from his mother that insanity and mental illness has plagued his father's side of the family for countless generations, she knows that she cannot bear his child, the thing she wants most in the world. She also, however, knows that if she divorces him, that, too, might induce the illness. So she has sex with a young doctor (Gable), gives birth to his child, names it after her lost love Gordon, and tells her husband that the baby is his. The child grows up hating his real father and idolizing the man he has grown up with. The characters age throughout the film, quite convincingly also. Shearer was M-G-M's most beautiful and glamorous star, and that she allows herself to be so de-glamorized is very lucky. The one problem with the aging factor springs from the original play: Although the actors look quite convincing in their age makeup, the degree of it is much too far. When her son is about twelve, Shearer and Gable should only be in their forties, but they look like mid-fifties at least. When he is graduating school, they should only be in their early fifties, but for some reason, they look more like late sixties, and only a little while later, they are practically in their mid-eighties. Thank God the makeup at least looks realistic! In the end, however, this is only a slight drawback, and when one takes into account the acting, script, and novelty of hearing the actor's thoughts, it is very easy to overlook. To compliment all of this, there is absolutely beautiful photography by Lee Garmes. Whether Shearer is in her early 20s or possibly pushing 120, she is still lushly and lovingly photographed, and the sets and backdrops perfectly frame these beautiful people. Any fan of early thirties cinema should take a look at Strange Interlude, but it is definitely not the place to start for someone who is not used to the techniques of the era. Daring in its day, both in its subject matter, and in its attempt to adapt a piece of legitimate theatre to the screen, Strange Interlude is startling, provocative, and successful in its adaptation, even though it failed at the box office.
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