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J. Farrell MacDonald
A bittersweet tale of the increasing estrangement of a retired automobile tycoon and his wife. Increasingly obsessed with maintaining an appearance of youth, she falls in with a crowd of frivolous socialites during their "second honeymoon" European vacation. He, in turn, meets a woman who is everything she is not; self-assured, self-confident, and able to take care of herself. Written by
Sonya Roberts <email@example.com>
William Wyler spent a whole afternoon shooting the sequence where Fran (Ruth Chatterton) burns a letter from her husband; he wanted the letter to specifically blow gently along the terrace, stop for a moment, and then continue to flutter as the scene faded to black as a metaphor for Fran and Sam's failing marriage. See more »
Arnold's position changes when he lights the cigarette while Fran reads the letter. See more »
The men are ready.
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Show me an actor of Walter Huston's caliber working today.
"Dodsworth" has been on my short list of must-see films for decades, and I finally had my chance to see it last night. I'm still in awe. (Others have made cogent observations about the acting of the other principals in the cast, so I will confine my comments specifically to Walter Huston.) There are people who will complain that this film is "slow," that it is "boring," that "nothing ever happens in it." Too bad for them, because this is a master class in acting of the highest order.
It is difficult to pull off a film like "Dodsworth" without betraying its stage origins, but this one feels and moves like a movie, not a play. (Of course, its genesis is a lengthy Sinclair Lewis novel, but the contributions of the gifted Sidney Howard -- who adapted the novel for the stage and the screen -- cannot be overlooked.) Walter Huston, who also played Sam Dodsworth in the Broadway play, was that rarest of actors, equally adept at playing to the back row of the balcony and giving a quiet wink to another 20-foot-tall face on a movie screen.
Anyone can buff up and wield a sword or tumble from a parking garage after being shot eleven times. But it takes a truly gifted screen actor to make the mundane seem utterly real; to shade a line just so, to achieve perfect pitch with every gesture, every glance. Huston was just such an actor, who, if he is remembered at all today it as John Huston's father, or the "old guy" in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Too bad again, because Huston was one of the finest actors in the history of American movies. He was not a movie star, but he totally embodied every role he ever played, and never gave a poor performance.
The narrative of "Dodsworth" is mature, intelligently handled material. It is impeccably directed by William Wyler. No one has ever remade it, though remakes have been considered. There are directors working today who could handle "Dodsworth," but it really merits more sophisticated treatment than the extensive nudity and profusion of strong language that would inevitably be written into a new script. It's much better left alone, and it deserves a far larger audience than it has ever had in the 68 years since its release.
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