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Josef von Sternberg,
Christabel fools everyone with her sweet exterior including her cousin Donna and Donna's wealthy fiancée Curtis. The only one who sees through her facade is Nick, a rugged writer who loves her anyway. Christabel also loves Nick, but she loves Curtis' money more. After convincing Curtis that Donna is only interested in him for his money, she tricks Curtis into marrying her. Of course, she still dallies with Nick on the side. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
Joan Fontaine plays a real conniver hiding beneath a soft exterior in "Born to Be Bad," also starring Robert Ryan, Zachary Scott, Mel Ferrer, and Joan Leslie. Fontaine is Christabel, a young woman from the poor side of the family who comes to town to work for her Uncle John once his assistant (Leslie) has married a wealthy, eligible bachelor Curtis (Scott). Fontaine sets her sights on the big money right away but finds herself in the heavy clinches with an author (Ryan) who's in love with her. She's reminiscent in her way of a non-show biz Eve Harrington.
Using her soft voice and all that gossamer femininity, Christabel manages, with an innuendo here, an innuendo there, a suggestion here, a hint there - to totally break up the engaged couple and drive Joan Leslie right out of town. Since Christabel has dropped out of business school, her uncle says she can't work for him and needs to return home. In a panic, she throws herself at Curtis at a ball and wins him. The question then is, what did she win? What did he lose? This potboiler was directed by Nicholas Ray, and I have to believe the man had a sense of humor. Otherwise, how do you account for those love scenes? Every time a man went to kiss Fontaine, he swept her around and dipped her, nearly breaking her neck as the music crescendos. Then there were the shots of Joan, her face in a state of rapture, as she realized she was getting what she wanted. Very campy.
Joan Fontaine is excellent in the role, very sweet in the beginning but becoming austere after she marries Curtis. It's a subtle change but definitely demonstrates her acting ability. She looks lovely in a variety of gowns and dresses. Robert Ryan is extremely handsome in this, as well as charming, funny, and a real catch. His character sees right through Christabel but wants her anyway. The acting is uniformly good. Mel Ferrer plays an artist who also has Christabel's number and paints her portrait.
"Born to Be Bad" is fun to watch though it's certainly not Ray's best work. I do think one has to allow for the fact that he saw this as a real potboiler and directed it the way he did on purpose. If you can't beat 'em - and with this script, how could he - join 'em.
By the way, there's a mistake in the letter that Christabel leaves for Curtis.
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