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Joan Crawford improvised several lines which made it into the final film. These were mostly autobiographical, including the line which mirrors Crawford's own life pre-stardom: "I couldn't go to school much. I was too busy doing shirts in the laundry, and when I finally landed that job in the chorus, it was too late for school." See more »
Choppy melodrama w/good cast + ideas, but abrupt, ridiculous ending
A promising, although hardly unique premise wicked city woman (Joan Crawford) marries good ol' boy (this time a gentleman farmer, played by Melvyn Douglas) not for love, but because she's sick of her current lifestyle. Of course, plans go awry and this `intruder' into their pat little lives and old family ways unduly disrupts the farmer's whole family.
Unfortunately, The Shining Hour's structure is so episodic and choppy that none of the characters has time to be fully developed. This is a shame, as each of them appears quite interesting in the limited screen time allotted them. A longer running time and more character exploration would have benefitted the film greatly. As it is, every time a new tidbit of information is revealed that may be of interest to the viewer, some obvious plot point takes over and speeds things along toward the ludicrous ending. I was left shaking my head, groaning and shouting `NO!, NO!' at the screen more than once. Horrors.
CAST/PERFORMANCES: Joan Crawford gives a good performance here, and her beauty is almost overwhelming. Melodrama (which this film most definitely is) was her forte, and she excels as wrong-side-of-the-tracks dancer Olivia Reilly, looking to better her stature and improve her social standing through her association with new husband Harry Linden (Melvyn Douglas) and his well-established, none-too-poor family. Crawford comes off very believably in this role, and she's great in it.
Melvyn Douglas does an excellent job as Crawford's husband. I thought he was very adept at both the tender, quieter scenes as well as the angrier ones. As Harry Linden, he is a very sympathetic character who tries to keep everyone happy, and almost loses everything despite his efforts.
Robert Young's character is an enigma, and he plays the complex role of David Linden, Harry's brother, very well. David is a moody individual, and the viewer is never sure how he will act or react next. Young gives a thoughtful, yet strong performance. Having had quite a few roles like this in his younger days, it's unfortunate that he lapsed into mawkish television roles later in his career.
I can't relate at all to the character of Judy Linden, played by Margaret Sullavan. I like her performance, and think she does well with the words she is given to say. She cries well, too, which I always admire in an actor or actress, yet for me the role is too self-sacrificing, and her unbelievable character is the downfall of the entire scenario. Why, why, why???
Fay Bainter is usually better than she is here. I just didn't feel the menace that her character (Hannah Linden) was supposed to evoke, except for the party and fire scenes those were done very well. Hannah's character seems to be the forerunner of Luz Benedict (played by Mercedes McCambridge) in Giant. There are several similarities between the two. It's too bad that both performances are also somewhat lackluster.
GOOD POINTS, BAD POINTS: If you can ignore the implausibility of the outcome and the fact that some of the action is simply mind-numbingly hard to take, you might consider watching this film. My advice is to give The Shining Hour a chance, because aside from the goofy, terribly abrupt ending, it does have some elements to admire, including some thoughtful dialog and especially the humanity of the characters, which is surely the film's strongest point. However, this ruined potential makes it extra frustrating to watch, so keep all heavy objects out of your reach as you tune in.
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