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Brandon and Jessie Bourne have been married to each other for many years. A few years ago, Brandon had an extra-martial affair with Isabel Lorrison. Now she has returned to New York intending to start over with the relationship once again. Meanwhile, Jessie is attracted to Mark Dwyer, just arrived from a secret mission in Italy. Written by
Stanwyck and Heflin have a palpable chemistry here, and Ava Gardner is a most alluring vixen. Cyd Charisse is a delectable ingenue (and a tall drink of water), while Gale Sondergaard is hilarious as a hard-bitten, hoydenish Amazon floozie. Stanwyck is playing about 10 years younger than her actual age (her film mother admits to being 55, when Stanwyck is in her early forties here, and while still handsome, she does look her age).
Mervyn Leroy did a nice job of combining the noir/woman's-picture genres, though its ennoblement of Stanwyck robs her of her strengths as a no-nonsense woman, good or bad. Her scene with Gardner is a standout -- both actresses are well matched; Gardner's feline beauty and laissez-faire romantic approach nicely complements Stanwyck's humane fatalism -- and Stanwyck and Van Heflin are an appealing couple. Mason is rather a chump, however -- he seems to be underplaying to the point of lethargy, though his handsome charm surfaces here and there; yet he and Stanwyck, though matched in terms of age (she was younger by a couple of years) are not the type for each other; he doesn't suit her, screen-wise. Heflin's naturalism -- a performance of great charm and likability -- is more suited to Stanwyck's style and one longs for them to get together. Great use of sets to evoke New York, teeming with nightlife, and Leroy always had a knack for directing extras so that the city scenes seem peopled with real lives rather than populated with stand-ins. Costumes, though late 1940s, seem a bit recherche, as if the designer hadn't left the 1930s, with the women's gowns too ornate for such a sophisticated post-war milieu.
Not a great picture by any means, but a highly enjoyable one; a viewer wishes the director and screenwriter -- the talented Isobel Lennart, who later wrote "Two for the Seesaw," among many others -- had trusted more in the chemistry between Heflin and Stanwyck, and discarded some of the Marcia Davenport source material, juicy as it must have been. This is from Stanwyck's late-1940s string of women's flicks, which did not play to her strengths. But middling Stanwyck is usually better than anyone else's best. And the underrated Van Heflin is worth rooting for, too.
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