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It was Leonora Eames' childhood dream come true. She had married Smith Ohlrig, a man worth millions. But her innocent dream became a nightmare once she realizes the truth about her husband - he is power mad and insane! Since he will not grant her a divorce, she leaves her life of luxury on Long Island and goes to work as a receptionist in an impoverished doctor's office in NYC's lower east side. After Smith deceives her into a temporary reconciliation, Leonora becomes pregnant. By the time she realizes she is expecting, she and one of the doctors, Larry Quinada (James Mason), have fallen in love. But she is again lured backed to her wealthy husband to give her child financial security. Her sadistic husband is hell-bent on keeping her and her child prisoner. What will happen to Leonora? Written by
Fiona Kelleghan <email@example.com>
For his American film debut, Mason was cast in the villainous role enacted by Robert Ryan. Mason wanted to change the villainous image he's established in British films and demanded he play the other male role. See more »
Melodramatic treatment of the evils of capitalism and its effect upon the human psyche...
This is a curiously interesting movie for three reasons: first, it has a chilling performance from Robert Ryan as Smith Ohlrig (what an odd name) whose persona in this narrative is apparently based on the very eccentric and fabulously wealthy recluse, Howard Hughes; second, it has James Mason with still a very British accent as poor doctor Larry Quinada, on the East Side of New York, tending to the poor of that area; and third, there is the radiant Barbara Bel Geddes as Leonora Eames, caught between the two men, trying to decide who to choose...
So, it's a rags to riches to rags story about Leonora who, after a brief -- rocket-like, you might say courtship with Smith, decides to accept his marriage offer for a life of luxury but after the honeymoon, she finds that, well, the honeymoon is over: she may as well be a wall-flower for all the interest that Smith shows towards her. Why is that? You see, Smith, being the mighty merchandising mogul he is, is a very acquisitive person and whatever he sees that he wants, he gets. Once he's got it, however, he tends to lose interest... Leonora thinks she loves him, but what she really loves is money and wealth.
Tiring of her eventually, Smith allows her to leave when her boredom reaches volcanic proportions: she's just too much trouble to be troubled with. So, searching for something useful to do, she takes a job as a receptionist in Doctor Quinada's office and, of course, she and he eventually fall in love. All the while, of course, Smith has his agents watch Leonora 24/7, without her knowledge.
Eventually, the pot boils, the three confront each other at Smith's incredibly, disgustingly rich mansion where Smith succumbs to his own psychopathology (that's as much as I'll tell you --- when you see it, you'll know what I mean), leaving Leonora sadder but wiser free to take up the socially good life with the good doctor. As the world turns, all is well with the world, sort of...
The messages about the state of that world are strong, indeed almost totally lacking in any subtlety, with lines such as "He was a human being...", "nobody's poor by choice...", "money alone isn't security" and others, all of which starkly inform the viewer that the price of excessive wealth and social nihilism combined is so close to madness it's not worth chasing; far better, instead, to reject such excesses and concentrate on being a valuable member of society.
Mason and Bel Geddes are good support for Ryan who really carries this movie as the menacing, quasi-sociopath. But, I also enjoyed the very smooth performance of Curt Bois as Franzi, the sycophantic sidekick to Smith: Franzi's always too ready to please and calls everybody 'darling', even when he's treated like dirt by almost everybody a slimy metaphor for the depths to which some go in order to survive in the world of untrammeled excess. But even Franzi has his limits, as you will find out.
Some great camera work and all in lovely black and white makes this movie a worthwhile addition to the film-noir genre. Watch particularly for the dark scenes in Smith's mansion and, later, the swiveling camera work when Doctors Quinada and Hoffman discuss Leonora's absence from their office. You just don't get shooting like that anymore...
Highly recommended for all you film-noir fans.
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