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 ...
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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
And the message is your lies will always catch up with you...
Made in 1950, this little gem was no doubt overshadowed by All About Eve (1950), the movie that made Anne Baxter and which also won six Academy Awards. The latter is, of course, a longer and more complex narrative, but both are fine movies. This was Nicholas Ray's sixth directorial effort, after Knock On Any Door (1949), In A Lonely Place (1950) and a few others.
No awards for Born To Be Bad though, but both stories have essentially the same theme: how a scheming woman sets out to get what she wants, and at any cost. Well, that theme has been done many times of course, but this (and Eve) stand out.
The narrative is straightforward: Christabel (Joan Fontaine) arrives on the social scene in San Francisco to make a name for herself. She latches onto Curtis Carey (Zachary Scott), the fiancée of her cousin Donna (Joan Leslie), succeeds in disrupting their marriage plans and then persuades Curtis to marry her. And, all the while she's in love with Nick Bradley (Robert Ryan) who is, in one sense, just as ruthless as she: an ambitious author determined to get recognition. Nick -- poor fool -- loves Christabel but also sees her for what she is. But, as you know, you can't fool all the people all the time; so eventually, Christabel gets her comeuppance for stealing Curtis from Donna while playing around with Nick at the same time...
In and around all of this pot-boiling is Gobby (the always effective Mel Ferrer), the artist who watches the foibles of humankind with cynical, but not unkind, objectivity (the role is, of course, the one that puts the viewer...er...in the picture).
The cast is uniformly excellent, although I have rarely liked Joan Fontaine (her sister, Olivia de Havilland was the better of the two, I think) as an actress. Having said that, I must say, however, that she excels in the role of the scheming femme fatale she is truly hateful, and does it well. Robert Ryan is always good (at least in the movies of this era) and plays the hungry author like a wolf tearing at lambs; Zachary Scott is well cast as the duped husband. Joan Leslie is adequate but outshone by the duplicity of the role Joan Fontaine played to the hilt.
The most effective actor, however, is Mel Ferrer who verbally jousts with everybody, and delivers some of the most effective lines in the movie although Robert Ryan has his fair share of wicked one liners also (e.g. in reference to Christabel, Nick muses to himself, "If she played her cards right, she could win me!" Towards the finale, he says to her: "I love you so much I wish I liked you!"). See this movie for the dialog, if nothing else. You won't be disappointed... promise.
So, why didn't this film get the recognition it deserved? Well, it came from RKO studios, which, at that time, was owned by Howard Hughes, a multi-millionaire who wasn't much liked by any of the Hollywood moguls. Hence, at a guess, I'd say favorable distribution and advertising throughout USA was probably lacking...
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