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C. Aubrey Smith
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>
Eugene O'Neill is acclaimed by some as America's leading playwright, but for things like The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night, The Emperor Jones. Strange Interlude was a piece of experimentation he concocted where the characters on stage, look aside to the audience and say what they really are thinking and then resume conversation. It was a nine hour production with a dinner break on Broadway, so you can safely assume a lot has been sacrificed here.
For the screen the voice over regarding the thoughts is used for all the characters. It probably is a technique better suited to the screen. Sir Laurence Olivier did very well with it in his version of Hamlet. But Bill Shakespeare gave Olivier a lot better story than O'Neill gave his players in this instance.
Players like Clark Gable, Norma Shearer, Ralph Morgan, May Robson, etc. are a lot more animated in most of their films than they are in Strange Interlude. The story takes place over a 20 year period. Norma Shearer is a young woman whose intended is killed in World War I. She starts playing around quite a bit, although that part is not shown in this version. She makes the acquaintance of Alexander Kirkland and his friend Clark Gable. She also has as a perennial suitor, Ralph Morgan, a friend of her father's Henry B. Walthall.
She marries Kirkland, but then is warned by his mother May Robson and shown that insanity gallops in that family to quote another literary work. Since Kirkland wants kids and Shearer and Robson think Kirkland's train will slip the track if he doesn't get one, Gable is recruited for breeding purposes. Of course you can see all the complications this can cause and O'Neill explores them all.
Gable is so terribly miscast in an O'Neill production, but he was an up and coming player at MGM and did what they told him. Shearer does what she can to lift a very dreary story, but she seems defeated at the start. Best in the film is possibly Robson who puts some real bite in her dialog.
Strange Interlude ran for 426 showings on Broadway in 1928-1929 and starred Glenn Anders and Lynn Fontanne in the Gable and Shearer parts. Perhaps no one could really have saved the film because two years earlier, Groucho Marx lampooned the stuffings out of it in Animal Crackers. After seeing what he did, I don't think the movie going public took it too seriously.
And since it's not the best of O'Neill, neither could I.
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