|Index||5 reviews in total|
Not the greatest film ever made but it holds due to the fine cast and the superb portrayal of a true scoundrel by Robert Montgomery. I was never much of a Montgomery fan but this was surely worth a nomination. Good story with an insight into the world of Broadway and what happens to naive folk who venture there.
Robert Montgomery was able to break out of the mold that Hollywood and
MGM pushed him into in the early 1930s - he was usually playing
weaklings and society bounders. While this kept him working, he did
fight to get atypical parts like Danny in NIGHT MUST FALL, the paranoid
industrialist in RAGE IN HEAVEN and Prince Florizel in TROUBLE FOR TWO
that demonstrated range and acting ability (not completely successful -
his mad industrialist is supposed to be British, and Montgomery just
can't bring up an accent to match George Sanders - here his friend and
victim). By 1941 he was branching out with films like THE DUKE OF
CHICAGO and HERE COMES MR. JORDAN. Unfortunately World War II broke
out, and Montgomery signed up. He was out of Hollywood for three years
in the Pacific, and then returned. Immediately he shared acting honors
with John Wayne in THEY WERE EXPENDABLE, and then he did something
interesting again: He began to direct films. THE LADY IN THE LAKE (with
his "I am a camera" approach) was the first film he directed, and it
became a noir classic. RIDE THE PINK HORSE followed. Then came THE
It was different from the other two films, for it does not deal with criminals or an underside of life that most of us avoid. Instead, THE SAXON CHARM dealt with the legitimate theater. Montgomery's Matt Saxon was a successful Broadway producer who did not stop at anything to get his way. As such, he represented many Broadway performers or writers or choreographers worst nightmares, for Broadway was full of people like Saxon. Years later David Merrick would have such a reputation - brilliant producer/absolute rat. In 1946/47 the person most people would have thought of was Jed Harris. Jed Harris should not be confused with George M. Cohan's partner Sam Harris (a nicer man from most accounts - portrayed by Richard Whorf in YANKEE DOODLE DANDY). Jed Harris was a first rate heel. If you read Katherine Hepburn's memoirs ME:STORIES OF MY LIFE, Harris was the producer of her famous Broadway flop THE LAKE. Today it is recalled because it is used by Hepburn in the movie STAGEDOOR, where we hear it's dialog, beginning with "The kallallillies are in bloom again..." In 1936 it was not a laughing matter to Hepburn, who found that Harris had botched the production out of malice towards her. She had to pay him a huge sum of money to get out of her contract on the play when he took it on the road. Harris also made an enemy of Laurence Olivier, whom got his revenge in a neat way. When making up his features for RICHARD III, Olivier made his evil king look like an exaggerated Jed Harris (and most of Broadway approved).
Matt Saxon is similarly selfish, ready to turn on everyone and anyone who does not do as he says. He wrecks the home life of his playwright (John Payne) to get a play according to his specifications. He demolishes the career of his girlfriend (Audrey Totter) with rumors, although she's able to continue without him. He even turns on Harry Von Zell when that harmless fellow just makes a mild comment of disagreement to him. In the end, he destroys almost everyone - even himself. Only at the last moment does he get a bit of advice that MAY save him.
THE SAXON CHARM is not a great film about the theater, but in showing a particular type that infests it's body politic it is an interesting film on the subject.
For me, one of the best one-liners I've ever heard in a movie was in "The Saxon Charm". Robert Montgomery and company enter a German restaurant in New York City. They are seated at a very bad table. Montgomery insists on a change. Management demurs and won't budge. Montgomery throws a fit and commands his party to follow him out of the restaurant by hissing, "Let's quit this Fascist pest-hole!". I don't remember when I first saw the film, 40 years ago at least, but I've been using that line ever since. I believe, agreeing with an earlier comment, that it was based on David Merrick with Jed Harris being used as a beard; although the author of the comment uses a different turn-of- phrase. I think that the comparison was intended by Frederic Wakeman, who wrote the novel upon which the film was based, and Claude Binyon, it's screenwriter and director. An earlier novel by Wakeman, titled "The Hucksters", was made into the eponymous film starring Clark Gable and Deborah Kerr. His "missing years" were spent in Greece with his wife, Elli Lambeti, a brilliant actress and a great star.
I accidentally saw this movie when the library put it in the case of
Pygmalion and I didn't realise I had the wrong film until I'd gotten home,
so it didn't start off on a good footing. Don't see this if you're tired,
has a fair storyline, but it'd probably put you to sleep.
OK, there's this producer who has an ego the size of Texas, and doesn't care who he steps on to get his way. First victims: the producer tries to hit on a woman at a party, and she tries to warn her husband, who is a writer (who wants the same producer to produce his play), but he doesn't listen, and they end up separating. Then, the producer manages to destroy his own girlfriend's career by spreading vicious rumours about her, so she loses her contract. The poor author is forced to revise his play, and he makes such a mess of it that the actor he had pegged for the lead doesn't want to do the part anymore. Luckily, the author's ex-wife shows an original draft of the play to that actor, who loves it, and helps her to find another producer. After doing such a good deed, the author goes back to his wife. I can't remember anything else, but I think someone died as well.. I'd give The Saxon Charm about a 6 out of 10.
Our play group, The Frank Moeschen Club, was treating us to an afternoon at the movies, it was a story about tank battles of WWII! Anyhow, we got into the theater, I believe it was the Loew's (in those days they still used apostrophes) 86th St., and...where was the tank battle. This d--n thing was playing instead. We waited and waited for it to finish, so the second feature (they also had double bills in those days and, up in Harlem, TRIPLE features, altho those were mostly 1930s westerns from studios like Monogram or a place called "PRC.") But I digress. By the time this vile thing finally did get thru, sorry time's up, your parents are waiting for you at home. You can imagine the lifelong annoyance I have had just seeing the name Saxon Charm.
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