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 ...
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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 »
A compact, moving, absorbing, beautiful masterpiece...don't miss it.
Never available on DVD, the lower resolution VHS version has made it at last to Netflix streaming. I remember loving this movie when I first saw in in the 1980s, and then again five years later, and I've been anxious to see how it held up for 2011. In a word, great.
Director Max Ophuls is my kind of director--melodramatic and visually lyrical. The casting here is perfect, with a triangle of three very distinctive and powerful types--Barbara Bel Geddes the most unusual and necessary of the three, playing a meek and ordinary girl better than even Joan Fontaine, who always manages a higher kind of refinement. And Bel Geddes isn't supposed to be refined, even if she is attracted to fine things, and therefore to a rich man, played with stark edginess by Robert Ryan, ever sculptural and hard.
This seems to be the crux of the conflict, with an echo (perhaps) of "Rebecca" in this situation (rich man, innocent poor girl). But then comes a sudden turn, and the appearance of James Mason, playing with unusual charm and honesty a hardworking doctor. The contrast between the two men is perfect, cinematically as well as in terms of character, and Bel Geddes has to negotiate between them, sometimes without quite knowing what her choices are.
It's nice to see a generally redemptive movie like this, where good faces evil and spits in his eye. The photography and light, under Ophuls, is naturally fluid and immersive. There are small things to watch, if you are into this kind of thing, like the opening scenes where the camera paints a view of the little apartment shared by Bel Geddes and her roommate, following their conversation with a kind of circuitous exploration of this roving eye of a camera. And then there is a kind of set piece of a conversation between Mason and another doctor from two sides of the empty waiting room, as the camera glides from one to the other and then does a kind of a curly-que at the end, as if a conductor's baton signaling it's all wrapped up. At first the conversation means nothing in particular, but you come to see it as a turning point in the direction of the movie, and of Mason's energy.
I hate to be the only one out there to think this is a masterpiece, but even in the general modesty of the intentions all around, it really is a gem. It's not as involving and impressive as "Rebecca," so maybe there is a reason to simply enjoy it and move on. But don't miss this. It's a tightly made, brilliantly chilling and exuberant, and beautiful, beautiful.
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