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MGM originally told actress Laraine Day that if she played the female lead in Keep Your Powder Dry (1945) that they would reward her with the female lead in Undercurrent (1946). Although she kept her part of the bargain and appeared in that production, MGM failed to fulfill their promise and gave the lead to Katharine Hepburn. Laraine Day responded to this by asking and receiving a release from her MGM contract in 1946. See more »
The first half-hour is quite well done. Hepburn is excellent as the plain Jane whose brave exterior hides an aching heart. That the sleekly handsome Taylor would suddenly pay her attention is almost too good to be true. For the sheltered girl, it's a Cinderella dream come true. The Washington DC party scenes are particularly well done, just the sort of thing MGM was skilled at, and watching her keep up a brave façade among the snobs while hiding deep insecurity is particularly affecting. But then the movie goes into a dark psychological phase, and it's mainly downhill from then on.
There's nothing plausible about Ann's (Hepburn) obsession with a mysterious Michael (Mitchum), especially while she's married to Prince Charming Alan (Taylor). It's clearly a plot contrivance and a clumsy one, at that. And catch that sequence where Alan tries to kill Ann while they're on horseback. It's about as poorly staged and edited as any action sequence I've seen. In particular, the progression of backgrounds doesn't come close to matching, creating a rather surreal effect.
In my book, LB Mayer's MGM was the wrong studio to do this kind of dark material. Too bad Mayer didn't pass the story over to a budget outfit like Columbia or RKO. They would have turned out a fast efficient little noir, which is what the material is really suited for. The trouble here is that MGM casts two of its biggest celebrity stars in the lead. Hepburn and Taylor are fine performers, but their super-star status required lots of screen time, so the movie gets padded to an often redundant two hours, which doesn't help.
It's also an odd role for Mitchum given his later screen persona. Of course, it's still early in the tough guy's career, and a year away from his defining role as the noirish Jeff in Out of the Past (1947). Still, seeing him in a bland part that any number of lesser actors could have handled takes some getting used to. He's lucky he went from here to the eccentric RKO, while I'm wondering where his career would have gone had he stayed with glamorous MGM.
All in all, the melodrama itself is a turgid disappointment despite the first half-hour and the amount of talent involved.
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