East Side, West Side (1949) Poster

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Nothing new here, but professionalism of actors and director raise film above familiar material
Steven Mears2 July 2001
A fairly standard-issue formula melodrama comes alive thanks to capable acting and adept direction. Sheer professionalism keeps the unremarkable story afloat, with all concerned more than equal to their assignments.

`East Side, West Side' is told from the point of view of a lady of leisure (Barbara Stanwyck) whose husband (James Mason) is a habitual adulterer. Despite his deep love for her, he is unable to resist temptation, comparing it to an alcoholic's need for the bottle. All his efforts to clean up his act are for naught, however, when former mistress Ava Gardner returns to town determined to win him back, and willing to stop at nothing to do so. Meanwhile, Stanwyck incurs the affections of a highly decorated police officer (Van Heflin), who shows her the other side of the tracks where he grew up, and is surprised to learn that she did too. Their relationship blossoms, but when Gardner turns up dead and Mason and Stanwyck are suspected, it falls to Heflin to sort things out.

There's nothing here that hasn't been done before, but it is handled with such style and finesse that it's impossible to dislike, and the story is surprisingly involving. Heflin is provided with a strong character and ample opportunities to showcase his acting capabilities. The roles filled by Stanwyck and Mason are more burdensome because they serve to drive the plot, but both actors tackle them skillfully. Gardner is given only a few scenes to establish and develop her character, but she nonetheless makes a strong impression. Veteran director Mervyn LeRoy knows just how to handle such material, and he does so with poise and surefootedness. The proficiency of involved participants raises routine material above the ground and makes for engaging viewing, and this film is a case in point.
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Any side of the town is good, for revenge.
sobronx-427 October 1999
Mervyn LeRoy does it again. Exquisite cast, superb production >and tight story line make this a must see. Several persons in >this saga want revenge, but you'll have to see how it shakes out >to see just who gets whom. Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin are >united on screen once again (The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers) >with an unbelieveable supporting cast. Gale Sondergaard, Ava >Gardner, Cyd Charisse and Nancy Davis make up the bevy of head- >liners and head-turners in a film about love, lust and morality. >See how James Mason figures in with a great ending where some- >one makes a point and leaves no doubt what it's all about.
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Likable melodrama
rjhughes212 July 2003
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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Stanwyck and Gardner duke it out over James Mason
blanche-210 March 2006
Two of Marcia Davenport's books - "Valley of Decision" and "East Side, West Side" have been adapted for the screen, neither with resounding success. The Greer Garson-Gregory Peck "Valley of Decision" only used half of the book - risky, since it was a huge best-seller. "East Side, West Side," which stars Barbara Stanwyck, Ava Gardner, James Mason, and Van Heflin, also leaves out valuable source material. The result is part melodrama/part murder mystery, with mixed results.

Stanwyck and Mason star as married couple Jessie and Brandon, and at the beginning of the film, despite a lovey-dovey scene in a taxicab, we can see what the problem is. He goes to a bar and seems to be trying to pick up Rosa (Cyd Charisse). When his picture makes the front page the next day for being in a bar fight, Rosa explains the situation to Jessie and the two become friends. She introduces Jessie to the man she loves, Mark Dwyer, and it's obvious from the beginning that he's attracted to Jessie. He's known Rosa since she was a child, doesn't have romantic feelings for her, and the two part friends. Jessie, however, wants her husband, and is panicked when she learns that the woman who nearly ruined their marriage, Isabel (Ava Gardner) is back in town. Brandon is obsessed with her - and Isabel knows it.

Heflin and Stanwyck make a great pair, and the audience wants them together right away. Mason exhibits no emotion throughout. Gale Sondergaard is excellent as Stanwyck's mother, though one wonders about the casting as she was only a few years older than Stanwyck. One comment stated that Stanwyck was too old for her role; I actually think Sondergaard was too young, as Mason, Heflin, and Stanwyck were within a few years of one another. One bit of casting that is interesting is Charisse, as she bore a resemblance to Gardner, so the initial attraction Mason has for Rosa bears out his obsession with Isabel.

Gardner provides all the excitement in "East Side, West Side" as a purely sexual being who lives off of men and enjoys exerting her power over them. She's absolutely gorgeous and just about burns a hole in the film with her steamy performance. Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner were unique screen goddesses who had the whole package - beauty, body, voice, and an erotic sensuality.

Stanwyck is sympathetic in a familiar role for her, and Heflin's energetic performance is juxtaposed against Mason's, making one wonder why Stanwyck is wasting her time. Hollywood seemed to want to make Marcia Davenport's rich novels into ordinary screen stories. It succeeded.
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Chic, Filled With Stars At Their Most Glamorous; Yet Pedestrian
Can someone respond to let me know why the name "Lorrison" was featured in so many movies around this time? I have never heard of a person in real life with that name; yet it pops up over and over. And here, the character played by Ava Gardner is never referred to is Isabel but always, always, by both names.

I first saw this movie on TV as a teenager and assumed that life in Manhattan would be like this, just as thought the publishing world would be as it's portrayed in "The Best of Everything."

This has very chic settings -- the East side locations much more believable than the brief excursion into the West side area ostensibly the scene of Heflin -- and Stanwkyck's -- childhood.

The acting is good. The plot is engaging. Decent lines. The direction, though, is very static. All the style comes from the presumably Sutton Place location and the elegant interiors and from the fabulous cast of real movie stars, with James Mason a suave cad prefiguring his brilliant Humbert Humbert a bit more than a decade later.

Gale Sondergaard is amusing as Stanwyck's elderly mother. At one point, she says, "I'm 55 years old." Interesting, as in real life she was only eight years older than Stanwyck, who was 42 when this came out.

Still and all, this movie has stuck in my head for many years as the epitome of chic. The actors are all plausible as socialites, and Gardner is properly gorgeous and evil as a (very) beautiful girl who's hustled her way over from the wrong side of the tracks.

It's fun, but it could have been really great, given the performers, the original author and the screenwriter.
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Love triangle, in which the femme fatale is murdered
quibus26 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Barbara Stanwyck is the lady. What a grace, what a style. Ava Gardner the temptress. A gorgeous woman, full of desire. Fortunately the word "sexy" was not yet invented, and Ava can therefor not be trivialized by that description. Powerful acting by top actresses, perfectly matched by James Mason in a glorious setting of old New York. Cigarettes were an essential part of the movies in those days. And amazing, to see all those vintage cars on Fifth Avenue. Indoors the stairs, rooms, wooden furniture, chandeliers and beds of an age long gone by. The story is classic. Each actor is given the opportunity to show his or her character. The women play the essential roles. The male actors are secondary, but essential, of course. They don't make movies like that anymore.
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Don't let Ava Gardner into your life!
marcslope3 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Lush big-city melodrama from MGM, with what looks surprisingly like some on-location shooting, where highfalutin Barbara Stanwyck and James Mason's marriage is threatened by an impossibly gorgeous, impossibly evil Ava Gardner, while Mason flirts mildly with Cyd Charisse, who's hooked up with Van Heflin, who's increasingly intrigued by Stanwyck. Screenwriter Isobel Lennart was usually good for some smart dialog, and she's reliably industrious here, though there's no truth at the center of these doings: People just don't fall in and out of love as quickly as they do here, and the plotting takes some very improbable turns, such as Charisse's gallant and uncomplaining exit from Heflin's life, Heflin's solving of a murder, and Mason's inability to escape Gardner's clutches. On second thought, that's not that improbable: She's lust incarnate, and there are some intriguing intimations of a sadomasochistic relationship between them. Believable it's not, but it's very entertaining, with smooth Mervyn LeRoy direction, sumptuous gowns, and a swanky sort of pseudo-sophistication that no major-studio movie today would even attempt. I never knew what was going to happen next, and kept right on watching, till 2 a.m.
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60 Washington Square
jotix1008 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Manhattan in the forties was the center of the so-called Cafe Society, in which people from high society mixed with show biz types, and others, less richer folks, in the clubs and watering holes that were the places where a party atmosphere was a requirement. Brandon and Jessica Bourne, a couple of well to do New Yorkers, are seen as the story unfold. They had a rough time when Brandon had an affair with a lovely playgirl, Isabel Lorrison, who had been out of the way, but she returns to the scene with the idea of reviving her fling with the man that she never was able to get out of her heart.

Jessica, who watches in horror as Bran's picture in the tabloids after being punched by Isabel's new beau, realizes Isabel's intentions in reappearing in her life. At the same time, the arrival of an admired war veteran, Mark Dwyer, who has come to interview for a job as a newspaper reporter, gets her attention because he is everything her husband is not. Mark's attraction for Jess is evident, but she is an honest woman who will stick by her man, no matter how rotten he is.

When a murder brings all the principals together, it takes Mark only a moment to figure out who is the culprit, thus clearing Brandon of any wrong doing. Jessica's resolution to support her playboy husband reaches an impasse when she realizes his betrayal. Unfortunately, she doesn't make up her mind about Mark, the only hope she knows about a possible happiness.

Mervyn LeRoy directed this MGM 1949 film. It was based on a novel by Marcia Davenport and adapted for the screen by Isobel Lennart, the writer of many films in her prolific career. Mr. LeRoy shows his affinity to this type of melodrama, which capitalized on the excellent cast that was put together for this project. Charles Rosher's crisp black and white cinematography works well for the picture, while Miklos Rozsa's musical score contributes to the enjoyment of the picture.

Barbara Stanwyck appears as Jessica giving the character her usual intensity. Ms. Stanwyck was a reliable player no matter the vehicle she was entrusted with. James Mason, although being top billed, was not exactly the main attraction. That honor went to Van Heflin, an excellent actor that was a versatile performer who appears as Mark Dwyer, a man who falls in love with Jessica silently. Ava Gardner's contributes to create heat in the film with her sultry good looks. Cyd Charisse is Rosa, a kind young woman who helps Jessica. Nancy Davis, who went to be the First Lady, after marrying Ronald Reagan, appears as Jessica's friend. Gale Sondergaard has a couple of good scenes in the film.
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Stanwyck and Heflin steal the show
crombina20 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I just saw this movie the other day on TCM. The acting was exceptional all around. The story was interesting and kept my attention the entire time.

I especially enjoyed the scenes between Stanwyck and Heflin. It was fun to see their characters interact in a friendly manner. It's quite a contrast from their roles in "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers." My favorite parts of the movie were when they ate mushrooms & eggs and when they were hanging out in the NY neighborhood.

My only quip was how the murder plot resolved so quickly. The movie would've been more suspenseful if it had been a little longer. And it easily could've been 10 or 15 minutes longer; it's not like the movie dragged at any point.
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Compelling. Wonderful acting. Surprising.
ggcreate18 June 2010
Compelling. This film took me by surprise - I couldn't resist it. Stanwyck is always 100% watchable and moving and she's smart and Van Heflin is a man's man and a very subtly intense actor. Ava Gardner was outstanding and Cyd Charisse is excellent. Mason is not my cup of tea but he pulled it off. These are actors who move with fluid grace and attack their lines and we just don't have American actors like this at present. I watched it a second time because it was seamless and sexy in a very subtle way. The clothes are gorgeous too. All of the intimacy between Heflin and Stanwyck and the easy way he had of just declaring himself was exciting. I was too young to appreciate this actor before, but I'm old enough now to want men to be men in films again.
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Ava Gardner at her hottest and most wicked!
bowpeep16 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Every time I see this movie I am almost surprised that my TV screen does not a get a hole burned into it. That is how hot Ava Gardner is!! She shut this whole movie down with her performance. You feel so sorry for the Barbara Stanwyck character because it is so clear that she does not have a chance. Her husband is powerless over this woman and it is plain to see why.

My 2 favorite scenes are one between Stanwyck and Nancy Davis who we all know as former first lady Nancy Reagan, where Nancy, playing the loyal and dutiful friend comes by to tell Stanwyck to beware that her husband's lover is back in town. The second is the scene between Gardner and Stanwyck where Ava tells her that this time around it is going to be different...Stanwyck will only see her husband when Gardner is tired of him. That scene alone makes this movie worth watching over and over again.

The costumes in this movie where equisite! Ava, Barbara, Cyd and Nancy were all dressed to the nines!! It makes me wish that we still dressed that way now.

I love this movie. It is classic melodrama at its best!
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Great cast, overloaded plot make Manhattan melodrama a mixed bag
bmacv19 September 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Making fun of East Side, West Side could be a lot of fun – if it wasn't so much blowsy fun to watch. On the plus side, it has a pretty spectacular cast, right down to William Frawley (Fred Mertz to you) as a bartender. On the minus, it's an overloaded melodrama into which they threw everything they could think of, and then some. Since there's already a kitchen sink – in one of those scrambled-eggs-at-midnight scenes – a mini-murder mystery was added halfway through; it amounts to no more than a subplot (though it brings in some new talent in the form of Beverly Michaels).

Barbara Stanwyck returns to a lavish apartment overlooking the East River much like the one she occupied the year before in Sorry, Wrong Number. She's the well-bred wife of a philandering husband (James Mason) who renews his affair with an old flame (Ava Gardner, at her most other-womanish). Stanwyck's resolve to soldier on with dignity falters with the arrival of Van Heflin, a former policeman turned war-correspondent (he drops his childhood sweetheart, Cyd Charisse, like a hot brick, albeit gently). Then Gardner turns up dead....

In addition to the five principals, other names adorn the credits, including Gale Sondergaard, William Conrad and, in her credited debut, Nancy Reagan. But best of all is another debut, that of Michaels, as a gold-digging platinum blonde whose stature is much remarked upon (`the big girl,' `built like the Empire State Building,' `the Amazon'). Later to star in Wicked Woman, Michaels commanded a minuscule range, but, within it, she was quite something. Even more than Gardner, she takes this penthouse story close to the gutter.
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A loyal, rich wife, a prowling husband with a slippery zipper, a murder...Barbara Stanwyck, James Mason, lots of melodrama
Terrell-420 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
We're going to have to keep some things straight, so please pay attention. "A" is loyal, sincere and society-style rich. Her mom's even richer. She's in love with "B," a charming, compulsive philanderer and nicely turned-out cad. They're married. Every Thursday they go to Mom's mansion to have dinner for three. "C" is a luscious, high-gloss tramp who knows what she wants and when she wants it. Now that "B" is into the money, she might want to take up where things left off with him before he married "A." "D" is decent, honorable, and patriotic, with a past that's part detective, part U. S. spy. He loves "A," who sees him as a wonderful friend. He detests "B," and sees him for what he is, the rain on "A"'s obliviously happy parade. "E" is a nice kid to come home to after a hard day's work. She'd have dinner ready and the pillows plumped. "E" may seem a little bland but she's got great legs. She loves "D," but he's too decent to be anything but decent toward her.

With Mom observing, with the drinks poured, with easy morals on the East Side, with loving commitment on the West Side and with everyone extremely well groomed, the anguish starts and the tears flow. If it weren't for murder and two other elements, East Side, West Side would probably only be worth remembering by the fans of women's weepies. The murder and the hunt for the murderer take up the last half of the movie. Death provides some great, gloomy photography and some needed energy. Stanwyck as the murder suspect provides...I guess she provides the plot.

The best things about this movie, however, are those two other elements: Barbara Stanwyck and James Mason. Just for the record, Stanwyck is "A," Mason is "B," Ava Gardner is "C," Van Heflin is "D," and Cyd Charisse is "E." And we shouldn't forget Gale Sondergard, one of Hollywood's great character actors who plays Stanwyck's mother. Mason may pull the wool over Bab's eyes (and we kind of like him when he does), but Sondergard, as gracious and as smooth as old gold dollars, is a woman to be wary of when she smiles sympathetically.

One can understand why Stanwyck agreed to the movie. She was still a major name-above- the-title star, but she was on the down slope of age. East Side, West Side gave her a chance to play believably younger than she was, to look stylishly dressed and coifed at all times, to move around in the kind of upper-crust apartments only Hollywood could decorate, to emote everything from love to regret, from anxiety to calm resolution. It's her movie, and she risked loosing it only when James Mason decided to take the intriguing part of the hopeless, hapless, assured and self-deceiving cad Stanwyck has married. Stanwyck remains Stanwyck, one of Hollywood's rare stand-alone actresses on whom any film she's in seems always to focus on her. Mason usually had that same affect. He could come off as cruel (The Seventh Veil), or a rogue (The Wicked Lady) or hopelessly sad (Odd Man Out), but it was hard not to concentrate on him. When cruel, he could be romantic. When a rogue, he could be dangerous and good company. When hopelessly sad, he could embody feelings close to tragedy. But, my goodness, just look at the roles he picked to play when he came over to Hollywood in the late Forties. Mason made his own choices. He was intelligent and a risk taker. He liked working for first-rate directors. He often made possible small films by agreeing to star in them. He was a superb film actor. And here he is in East Side, West Side as Barbara Stanwyck's husband, a man unable to keep his pants zipped.

Stanwyck brings authenticity to the movie, even though it's all Hollywood. She has to contend with too many major characters and too many balls in the air. Mason, however, makes us like the situation. Two scenes toward the end of the movie, the first when he has a conversation with Gale Sondergard as Stanwyck's mother, and the second when he leaves a message over the phone to be delivered to Sondergard, are both high-class bits of immensely satisfying comeuppance acting.

Mason had a long career and played in some real doozies, but I can't think of a performance of his I've seen that I didn't enjoy. Try him in The Reckless Moment, (1946) a great film directed by Max Ophuls, or, at the end of his career, in The Shooting Party (1985). As for Stanwyck, there are a lot of movies to like. For melodrama, death and under-appreciated Hollywood angst, try The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946).
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Good Melodrama & Real Life Friction between Stanwyck and Gardner
Paris5514 December 2011
I have always liked this movie and purchased it as part of the Barbara Stanwyck collection. Most of the reviews provided on East Side/West Side have hit the mark. Good melodrama and women knew how to wear clothes. One interesting point about this movie that has not been mentioned - the only scene between Barbara Stanwyck and Ava Gardner had pure tension. According to Robert Osborne (Turner Classic Movies Film Historian and biographies on Stanwyck and Gardner), Stanwyck was great friends with Nancy Sinatra, Frank's first wife. During the filming of this movie, Gardner was having an affair with Frank. Stanwyck did not like Gardner for trying and eventually breaking up their marriage. Also, Stanwyck knew that Gardner had an affair with her husband at the time, Robert Taylor during an earlier 1940s film. So the tension in that particular scene was real!
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Ava attempts to steal Mason away from Stanwyck...look out!
moonspinner555 June 2011
Extremely busy marital melodrama which (rather unsuccessfully) lapses into a homicide investigation! New York City socialite Barbara Stanwyck loves and trusts investment counselor husband James Mason--even though he has a penchant for disappearing after-hours and returning home at four in the morning. Turns out old flame Ava Gardner is back in town; she's a high-class man-chaser who won't take no for an answer. Screenwriter Isobel Lennart, working from the novel by Marcia Davenport, starts things off routinely, but keeps adding characters until the scenario is bubbling over like a stew-pot. Van Heflin does wonders with a shapeless role as a war correspondent/ex-detective who ends up in jilted Stanwyck's kitchen, flirting with her in Italian, while Gardner is offered some juicy repartee (when Mason calls her "cheap", Ava replies, "That's what you like about me."). A country square-dance is curiously transplanted to a Manhattan penthouse, and Beverly Michaels' supporting performance congeals into high camp; still, Barbara and Van have an immediate rapport--one that is not apparent in her scenes with Mason (who doesn't help his cause by portraying the cad-husband like a petulant boy). Stanwyck, outfitted and coiffed like a lady ten times her age, initially doesn't have much to do, but Lennart's script soon has her traveling all over the city--east side, west side, and beyond. It's a nervous, flighty picture, paced exhaustively by director Mervyn LeRoy, but overall quite watchable. **1/2 from ****
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A film noir and three vamps
a_pleno_sol27 March 2003
When I want to see a black movie I prefer the appareance of the vamps who can play their roles convincingly. This is an splendid "film noir", and the whole cast are excellent with Barbara Stanwyck, Ava Gardner and Cyd Charisse especially extraordinaries. They are the spirit of the picture, about outlaw men, corrupted women, guns and too much emotions... I saw this movie for 17 times.
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Glamour aplenty
prs5121 May 2016
Barbara Stanwyck was a great actress over a long and distinguished career and this is an enjoyable drama about the lives and loves of upper income New Yorkers in the late forties. But as much as she delivers her usual sterling performance, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her as she is overwhelmed in the glamour stakes by both Cyd Charisse and Ava Gardner who are both at the apex of their beauty. A secondary niggle relating to the casting has both Babs and Cyd fighting for the affections of Van Heflin. Van Heflin!! On the other hand James Mason is well-cast as the weak-willed sleazy husband. Overall an impressive entry into the "woman's picture" of the forties genre.
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She's A Bran-Eater!
ferbs5424 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard to know whether one should feel envy or pity for Brandon Bourne, the character that James Mason portrays so effectively in 1949's "East Side, West Side." Married to wealthy socialite Jessie (Barbara Stanwyck, giving her all here, as she always did), living in a posh duplex apartment overlooking the East River, and the copartner in an upscale investment firm, "Bran" certainly does seem to have it all. Unfortunately for him, however, he also suffers from a peculiar sickness, and her name is Isabel Lorrison. A year before the events depicted in the film, Bran's affair with Isabel had almost caused his marriage to unravel. But now, Isabel has returned to New York again, and Bran is starting to experience...well, let's just call them "symptoms"; understandable enough, seeing that Isabel is played by Ava Gardner, who at the time was at the very peak of her sex goddess phase! Ava would soon be dubbed the "world's sexiest animal," and seeing her effortlessly seduce Bran in this film, one is not inclined to dispute that appellation! Indeed, with the possible exception of her performance in "The Killers" (1946), I have never seen Ava give such a blatantly sexual performance; almost worth the price of admission alone!

Besides those three wonderful actors, "East Side, West Side" gives us Van Heflin, extremely ingratiating here as Jessie's new friend, Mark Dwyer; Cyd Charisse, playing another new friend of Jessie's and doing what might be thought of as the Joan Leslie "nice girl" role (sadly, Cyd's surpreme dancing skills are not on display in this picture); the great Gale Sondergaard as Jessie's shrewder-than-expected society mother; Nancy Davis (Reagan) as one of Jessie's older gal pals (she's actually pretty darn good in her two scenes with Babs); William "Cannon" Conrad as a police detective; and William "Fred Mertz" Frawley as a bartender. They make for a terrific cast, and director Mervyn LeRoy elicits excellent performances from each and every one of them. This, of course, should not come as too great a surprise, one when considers the performances that LeRoy had previously obtained for films such as "Little Caesar," "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" (one of my personal favorites), "Gold Diggers of 1933," "Waterloo Bridge" and "Random Harvest." To this film's credit, all the performers are so very good that no one can be said to "steal" the show; they are all uniformly fine, resulting in a surprisingly effective, handsome-looking picture.

The film also features a sparkling script and any number of wonderfully dramatic scenes, the ones in which Isabel seduces Bran in her apartment, Jessie confronts Isabel about her affair with Bran, and Mark gets into a fistfight with a blond Amazon being especial standouts. And then, right around the 3/4 mark, comes the startling homicide of one of the main characters, pushing "East Side, West Side" into even darker, more sinister waters. But perhaps I've already said too much. This film is a fairly serious drama, for all its soap opera trimmings, and those viewers expecting a standard Hollywood-type happy ending for all characters concerned might be a tad surprised at how things ultimately unreel. And, oh: Manhattan residents should see the film at their own risk. I guarantee that no matter how nice their apartment might be, it will surely pall besides the one that the Bournes reside in....
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And All Around The Town
bkoganbing27 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
You would think will all the talent that MGM managed to pack into this film they might have come up with something better. But East Side, West Side as a whole just doesn't click.

I hear tell that the original novel was quite a bit more complex and I would venture to say that MGM botched it in the writing department. Especially coming up with a murder suspect way out of the left field bleachers.

James Mason and Barbara Stanwyck are a married society couple, but Mason occasionally strays and he did so with Ava Gardner who seems to have a habit of picking up strays. Ava's gone away, but now she's back and looking to work both Mason and new flame Douglas Kennedy at the same time.

Of course that goes over great with Stanwyck and later when Gardner turns up murdered there are all kinds of suspects.

Ava's fabulous here as one amoral woman, the kind Barbara Stanwyck has on occasion played on screen. Their one scene together has some bite from real life because Ava's previous picture, The Bribe co-starred her with Robert Taylor and the two of them allegedly went at it like rabbits in the off hours. Talk about art imitating life.

Van Heflin is also in this as a former beat cop turned writer who is being lionized by Stanwyck and Mason's society folk. Heflin gets to repeat the drunk act he did when he won an Academy Award for Johnny Eager.

Gale Sondergaard is in this also, her last film before being blacklisted. She was off the screen for 20 years. There is an element introduced in the film that made no sense at all, she's Stanwyck's mother though she's only 8 years old than Barbara, and she loathes Mason as it turns out. Introduced and then dropped.

Former first lady Nancy Davis Reagan has a small part as a Stanwyck confidante and Cyd Charisse is in this in a non-dancing role as a friend of Heflin's.

Seeing a lot of dangling ends in this story, I'm sure that East Side, West Side is a lot more complex than what MGM gave us in 1949.
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Very good actors in a hard to love soaper.
MartinHafer3 May 2010
The film begins with James Mason at a nightclub trying to make time with a young lady (Cyd Charisse). Charisse isn't and realizes he's a married man. Oddly, despite this, Mason is NOT interested in a fast woman who also enters the scene. It seems that Ava Gardner had, in the past, had an affair with Mason--and he wanted nothing to do with her again--as she was clingy.

You then find out that Mason's sad wife is Barbara Stanwyck and she knows about this previous fling with Gardner. She is desperately hoping to get on with their lives--and is scared when Gardner approaches her to announce she's going to steal Mason! Stanwyck acts brave--but it's obvious she's shaken.

A short time after this showdown, Stanwyck learns that Gardner is dead and the viewer is uncertain who did it. Stanwyck, you know, didn't do it. But, Mason might have. Or, perhaps some third party did the deed. The only thing you know for sure is that Gardner's character had it coming!! Fortunately, Heflin just so happens to be a retired cop. And so, while he's VERY interested in Stanwyck, he also has a chance to help out by figuring out who committed the crime.

This film has a terrific cast--Barbara Stanwyck, Van Helfin, James Mason and Ava Gardner. And, with the material they were given, the actors did a fine job--particularly Miss Gardner who played a wonderfully evil part. The problem, however, is that the film rarely seems believable and the writing, as another reviewer stated, was rather 'pedestrian'. Surely with so much acting talent you'd think they'd be able to come up with THIS! One of the worst problems with the film is the character played by Stanwyck. It was a very thankless role--a woman whose husband has cheated on her yet cannot let the rat go. Viewers are inclined to be a bit annoyed by her needy character--especially when, otherwise, she is supposed to be strong and intelligent. Another problem is the relationship between Heflin and Stanwyck. While you could see them fall in love and this makes for a very interesting twist (the injured wife finding love herself with another man), it all happened way too fast. They just met and then there was an instant attraction--something that rarely happens in real life and which cannot be understood by the viewer based on their meeting. It was simply too rushed and as a result, difficult to believe. All in all, it should have been a lot better and the film is a stylish but not especially inspired soaper.

If you do watch this, there is only one standout scene in the film. Watch Heflin in the car with the blonde. The scene is great...and really brutal---and very reminiscent of film noir. I just wish the rest of the film had been that tough and unflinching. Also, keep an eye out for William Conrad as a cop. He looks a lot like his days as 'Cannon' but with a bit more hair--and that same wonderful voice!
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Ava is the only highlight here
amhnorris5 June 2003
An adaptation of a novel, 'East Side, West Side' is another example of genres merging together, with mixed success. On the one hand, we have the section of plot involving Ava Gardner. As everyone already knows, Ava was exquisitely beautiful, but in this movie she is very effective in her role as a typical noirish femme fatalle (the dangerous woman from the protagonist's past who threatens his future). She was a very competent actress in movies like this where she played the alluring vixen (see 'The Killers') or was part of a larger ensemble cast ('The Hucksters' and 'The Night of the Iguana'). Her freshness is a joy to watch, and matches anything that Stanwyck (overall considered as a better actress) gives here. One scene (and I think its the only scene) between Gardner and Stanwyck is a standout, as Gardner fervently describes the class contrasts between the two. Very convincing and restrained. There are some gorgeous shots of a (soundstage) city at night, replete with resplendent classic cars and neon signs. All very atmospheric, and the type of shots that one would associate more with a noir than a melodrama. The film can be divided really between Gardner's half which is film noir, and the portion involving Stanwyck which is sheer, trite melodrama. Without giving the plot away, note the treatment of Gardner's character for contemporary views of women like her.

The action firmly grinds to a halt with Stanwyck and Mason's boring (for us and them) marriage. Stanwyck had little chemistry with Mason (who sleepwalks through his part) and even less with Van Heflin. Casting wise, it just doesn't seem very convincing. Mason was characterised as vain and selfish - so why would he be so quick to put an end to his relationship with Gardner for Stanwyck who he seemed bored with anyway? He doesn't seem to genuinely love her. There's just too much going on towards the end, none of it particularly interesting. We're not given any reason to care for these people and during some scenes the dialogue felt so recited and flat that they may as well have been holding the scripts.

James Mason and Ava Gardner went on to appear in the dreadful 'Pandora and the Flying Dutchman' several years after this. 'East Side, West Side' (at least the parts with Mason and Gardner)is probably better than 'Pandora...' and certainly less pretentious. Recommended for fans of Ava and film students will possibly be interested in the movie's fluidity of genre.
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Very enjoyable! Can't go wrong with these stars.
dapplegrey1311 June 2011
Whoever said this "isn't a great film" doesn't enjoy film noir and romance nearly as much as I do. And I can also guess you've never waited up all night worrying about a husband or lover.... pacing the floor, wondering what you are doing wrong, praying he or she is not having an affair --worrying yourself in to a state of illness. I have. And many of my friends have. This movie illustrated so well the multi-dimensional facets of our human characters. I don't think there was a bad guy here --there were people trying to make their relationships work, falling in love, falling out of love, being weak, being strong, having regrets, and having hope....... being very human. I really loved it. I highly recommend it.

These actors are four of the finest of their day, and with good reason. Barbara Stanwyck, James Mason, Ava Gardner, and the ever-underrated Van Heflin --wow! It's set in the heart of NYC AND directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Seriously, what a recipe for success! If you get the chance, watch and enjoy "East Side, West Side". You'll be glad you did.
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Starpower Highlights This Mervyn LeRoy Production
atlasmb15 August 2016
"East Side, West Side" is a character study with the relationship complexities of a soap opera. Barbara Stanwyck and James Mason are a married couple on the mend after his apology for past indiscretions. The woman who encouraged his infidelity, Ava Gardner, returns to town, threatening to dislodge their new solidarity.

The character being studied is Mason's. What is his true nature? Does he really love his wife? At the same time, Stanwyck's character is a study in forgiveness. Can anyone totally forgive the ultimate betrayal? How tolerant is too tolerant?

What makes this story interesting is the introduction of Cyd Charisse as an outsider who involves herself in the drama. Then Van Heflin enters the fray, transforming the love triangle into an even more complex configuration.

Needless to say, the starpower of this cast is one of the best aspects of this mildly disappointing film. The less than stellar story is partly to blame for the disappointment, though I suspect the source novel might be less melodramatic, exploring the interior musings and machinations of the two primary characters.

Gardner and Charisse outshine Stanwyck despite her strong efforts. Regardless, there's a lot to see in this Mervyn LeRoy production.
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Lots of big names in this one
ksf-21 August 2014
Check out that cast list... the first EIGHT names are all HUGE, or became huge eventually. They must have blown the budget on just the payroll. Even further (farther ?) down the list, there are biggies. Wm Frawley (FRED!) and Vito Scotti. Poor Barbara S... kept getting nominated for Oscars; should have won it for sure for a couple of those. Stanwyck had just made a run of GREAT films during the 1940s, so it's no wonder this one isn't as well known. In this one, Jessie (Stanwyck) confronts her husband's mistress Isabel (Ava Gardner). James Mason is the playboy husband Brandon Bourne, and tries to have his cake and sleep with it too. Some amazing, big time co-stars - Van Heflin, Nancy Davis Reagan, Cyd Charisse, Gale Sondergaard. Bad stuff happens, and then the cop (a young Williamm Conrad) tries to figure out who-dunnit... so many suspects and motives. Really great film... surprised we don't see this on TCM more often, but so many movies, only so much time, i guess. Directed by Mervyn Leroy, who had worked on some biggies during the 1930s and 1940s.
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As the Soap Bubbles Churn....
mark.waltz2 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Having just watched "BUtterfield 8", I saw this movie as an earlier attempt to tell the same story from the wife's point of view. Same story, basically: seemingly happily married couple deals with issues concerning a rather "loose" woman (a former fling, now back in town) with few (if any) morals. Instead of Elizabeth Taylor, the "other woman" is Ava Gardner (like Taylor, one of MGM's genuinely beautiful as well as talented stars), and in place of Laurence Harvey and Dina Merrill are James Mason and Barbara Stanwyck. "BUtterfield 8" told the story from the other woman's point of view, but "East Side, West Side" focuses on the long-suffering wife (Stanwyck). It is very apparent here that Gardner has no scruples when it comes to going after a married man, so is it any wonder she ends up a corpse? But the film is not about the murder; It is about the wife's fight for her marriage and how she manages to find herself in the process.

If you can get past the fact that Barbara Stanwyck was only 8 years older than Gale Sondergaard (cast as her mother!), you can enjoy this lavish soaper, made for MGM's 25th Anniversary. James Mason (like "BUtterfield 8's" Laurence Harvey) is what Lucile Watson described to daughter Norma Shearer in "The Women"; the type of man who can't do his hair or redecorate his office when he's going through a change of life ordeal. He has to find himself in the arms of a younger woman. Unlike Taylor in "B-8", Gardner doesn't show any vulnerability or motivation for her loose lifestyle, certainly no apologies to either Mason or Stanwyck. I found it interesting that when Stanwyck finds out about Gardner's death, she is as stunned as if it were a neighbor or an old friend. Like she later did in the brilliant thriller "Jeopardy", Stanwyck provides an opening narration that seems unnecessary.

Certainly, there is no realism in a lot of the movie, so you have to take it from an entertainment point of view. I was surprised by the performance of Cyd Charisse as a model who helps Mason out of a predicament and later befriends Stanwyck to explain a picture in the newspaper. Usually, Charisse seems distracted by something in her acting, but here, she was amazingly on the ball with everything she did. I was not surprised by the outstanding performance of Van Heflin as Gardner's friend who becomes Stanwyck's confidant when they pick him up at LaGuardia Airport. I do not recall seeing Heflin in anything where he was less than inside the role. Whether it was a musical ("Presenting Lily Mars"), film noir ("Act of Violence") or his award worthy performance as the man with the bomb in "Airport", Heflin was simply outstanding.

I like Sondergaard in her two scenes; As a Broadway star from long ago (even though she's only 55-in real life only 50), she gave an interesting speech on society how in her day you couldn't just become a stage star to get into "Cafe Society". Sondergaard, a veteran of playing chilly characters, is nice here, although she has a moment alone with Mason where he gets to feel that chill. I liked the interaction between Stanwyck and her stepfather, one of mutual respect and affection. Nancy Davis (Reagan) gives a nice quiet performance as Stanwyck's pal who makes sweet observations about women's friendships going beyond cattiness and jealousy. You won't quickly forget Beverly Michaels as a mannish (yet well dressed) femme fatale. She may look like Diana Dors but has the masculinity of Hope Emerson! Veteran character actors and soon-to-be TV stars William Conrad and William Frawley have nice bits. This isn't a film that will be regarded as an all-time classic but is a fairly enjoyable "women's picture", made long after Hollywood really stopped making them.
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