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Siodmak's film noir from a Somerset Maugham novel...
DEANNA DURBIN begged Universal to let her play a dramatic role after her great success in a string of mostly mediocre films where she played a Little-Miss-Fixit in featherweight romantic comedies who sang operatic ditties with great skill and charm. She was always involved in a scheme to reunite her mother and father for the final clinch.
Here, she handles her very adult role with competence, quite believable as a torch singer in a disreputable nightclub, a troubled woman seeking redemption for problems in her twisted past relationships with a mother and son (GALE SONDERGAARD and GENE KELLY).
Deanna shines in the role, giving it shades of both simplicity and charm while playing the happy bride, but convincing when she becomes the bruised and fragile woman who manages to tell her tale of woe to a young lieutenant. The soldier is nicely played by DEAN HARENS, an officer on Christmas leave who is on his way to San Francisco when a storm forces his plane to land in New Orleans.
The film structure is not always smooth, burdened as it is by a couple of flashbacks in the middle and a rather weak ending that is over too abruptly. But Robert Siodmak and cameraman Woody Bredell give the whole piece a fluid style with long tracking shots and superior cinematography for several key scenes, notably the one that takes place at a church service on Christmas eve, and another in a concert hall.
Durbin's fans will certainly appreciate her rendering of "Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year" and Irving Berlin's haunting ballad "Always." The background music, a mixture of popular songs and classical pieces, is effective, especially for all of the nightclub scenes. Hans J. Salter deservedly won an Oscar nomination for his detailed and meticulous score.
Effective supporting performances from GALE SONDERGAARD, GLADYS GEORGE and RICHARD WHORF strengthen the tale. Well worth watching. Oddly enough, Deanna handles her dramatic chores in much better style than Gene Kelly, who's unable to do much with his role of a weak-willed wastrel who turns to crime for reasons unexplained.
Trivia note: David Bruce has a small role at the beginning. Two years later he'd be co-starring with Deanna in much bigger parts in CAN'T HELP SINGING and LADY ON A TRAIN.
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