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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My Forbidden Past has Ava Gardner as decadent New Orleans belle living
with her great aunt Lucile Watson and her cousin Melvyn Douglas. She's
got a yen for Yankee doctor Robert Mitchum who is doing research over
at Tulane University. They break things off and Mitchum goes away and
returns with a bride, slatternly Janis Carter.
In the meantime Ava inherits a whole bunch of money from her grandmother who left New Orleans years ago under a cloud. Just what she did is never revealed, but her name is spoken in hushed tones. Whatever she did, she sure got rich at it.
It kind of reminds me of The Road to Rio where we never do find out what those papers were that foiled the dastardly schemes of Gale Sondergaard to marry off Dorothy Lamour. As Bing concludes about the "papers" the world must never know.
This film was conceived so that Howard Hughes who was crushing out on Ava Gardner big time at that point could get her over to RKO. He paid Louis B. Mayer's price and Mayer apparently threw in Melvyn Douglas.
Melvyn Douglas knows full well what a clinker this is so he overacts outrageously in the best Snidely Whiplash tradition of screen villains. He's the best one in the film.
My Forbidden Past should come with a warning label that if you manage to sit through this melodrama because you want to find out just what Ava's forbidden past was with grandma, you will be left hanging.
This movie is not great. Just how many boring movies did Howard Hughes
make? But it does have two of the beautiful and fascinating stars of
the Hollywood Golden Age: Ava Gardner and Robert Mitchum. Melvyn
Douglas (who doesn't look so good in this) plays Ava's fey playboy
cousin. There are a couple of good lines. The plot is slim and the
movie is not long. Only 71 minutes, for those with a short attention
We're never told exactly what Ava's forbidden past is, but it has to do with her grandmother. Was she a prostitute? Maybe it's supposed to be ambiguous.
The man who directed it made the 1940s "Jane Eyre" with Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine and also the Disney "Mary Poppins."
While the story meanders and wavers,and at times seems like a quick
spin off of "Gone with the Wind", some of the scenes and closeups with
Ava Gardner are lovely and amazing.
Robert Mitchum as a research physician studying at Tulane;Gardner the unrequited love who delivers a letter to him before he leaves to go up north. Mitchum returns to New Orleans with a new brassy blonde in tow. She is clearly an opportunist who wants Mitchum for his future fortune, unlike Ava who claims to truly love him.She uses an ill-gotten inheritance to tempt him, there is a scandal and she indeed reminds us of Scarlett O'Hara.
This film also reminds one of "Raintree County" another imitation of "Gone with the Wind" with Elizabeth Taylor as the set-piece.ThIs film though has several nice sets of Old New Orleans,the manners and customs and varied cultures,and with the lovely Gardner in several memorable shots, is well worth a look.
I enjoyed watching the web of intrigue unfold as a young New Orleans lady in the late 1800's attempts to use her inheritance to regain the man she loves. But there are others who are and have been plotting both for and against her, and her plans go awry. I eagerly watched to learn if the man she loved would suffer for her machinations, or if she would risk her societal position to save him. Unfortunately the ending left me cold, with too many questions left unanswered and with the feeling that Robert Mitchum was miscast in the role of the doctor she loves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ava Gardner's beauty in My Forbidden Past (as any film) is
intoxicating. I had read Howard Hughes was particular about
accentuating women's breast's even so far as designing bras and his
handiwork shows here. Ms. Gardner & Ms. Carter (Mitchum/Mark's wife)
I actually liked the movie because you will notice something new every time you watch it. The street people each had a song for their wares. Even the servant, the great Clarence Muse, who turned out the porch lamp hummed a tune that could be heard through the house. You got the feeling that, yes, jazz COULD be born here! There were poor of both races in the streets 'hustling' as we would say today, and Ava bought a memorial candle from a poor white kid who also sang of his wares. In what I remember of country-like Saturdays in NY ghettos in the 50s and 60s there were peddlers singing as they sold their wares through the streets of Harlem, Brooklyn and the South Bronx, be they crabs, lobsters, fruit or shaved flavored ice. So that alone gave the movie an air of realism for me. Just as the Gershwins' represented the South Carolinian enclave of Catfish Row with it's street peddlers in Porgy & Bess. Seems like a lot of minority extras got paid in this movie, too, and that kept some grits on the stove for families like mine. Mitchum's character seemed to be a guy who toughed his way up from the streets of NY to make something of himself in the world. He backed off of Ava's character because, beside standing him up before she gained her fortune, she spelled trouble which he'd already seen enough of. After the kiss he gave her in town and, after he made it clear at the ball that he would be faithful to his new wife, Ava gave the camera a look that would send a shiver down Cagney or Gable's spine. You knew she would make him feel her hurt. 'Hell hath no fury,...' said Mitchum. What wonderful actors they both were! I was just a little puzzled at why Mitchum's wife was 'putting the make' on sad old Melvyn. Vincent Price in that role I could understand. But Mel struck me as comical (of course she WAS a gold-digger so...) I guess it makes more sense in the book. I give the movie 2 thumbs up for settings and background and another thumb up for Ava's beauty (I'll find an extra thumb somewhere, she deserves it)! Mitchum's wife (Janis Carter/Corrine) wasn't bad either. Costuming was excellent! I was, although, a little perplexed at the outfit Gardner wore when she came to let Mitchum know of his wife's rendezvous with Douglas. Gaudy, almost to the degree of clownish, it seemed as though she had another stop to make that night or really thought she should '...look the part,' as Rhett said to Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, as he helped her choose the dress she wore to Ashley's birthday party. When Mitchum opens the door and she walks in he must've first thought she was Emmet Kelly wearing a torpedo bra (forgive me, Ava). One entire layer of pancake could have been removed in that lighting. Still loved the flick - especially the costumes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've always found Melvyn Douglas and lookalike William Powell to be adept at light comedy with Douglas's Ninotchka cancelling out the entire Thin Man franchise but I struggle to recall Powell taking on the cad/murderer as Douglas does here and in passing leaves everyone else dead in the water with the possible exception of Lucile Watson. It's pure hoke, of course, and finds Ava Gardner living in genteel poverty with aunt Watson and cousin Douglas in 19th century New Orleans. Laughably cast medical research scientist Robert Mitchum comes to town for a stint at Tulane University (I'm not making this up) and would marry Gardner in a heartbeat (who wouldn't) but, curiously and inexplicably in thrall to the family Gardner, with her bags packed, is dissuaded from leaving with him by Douglas. In the fullness of time she inherits the thick end of a million dollars from a grandmother who apparently was no better than she should be and whose name must not be mentioned. Mitchum returns with a wife (Janis Carter) in tow - and the whole thing is a mere 70 minutes. Though set ostensibly in New Orleans for all the 'atmosphere' on show it could be Sasskatchawan. As always Gardner is ravishing and it's worth sitting through it for her alone plus several droll dialogue zingers as when, for instance, the local gotrocks with eyes to marry Gardner attempts in a subtly, polished Southern manner to buy Mitchum off, Mitchum promptly names a price - $5,000, a tidy sum in 1800 - and when the Southern gentleman is suitably bemused Mitchum adds 'We Northerners are so crass'. Hoke, yes, but also, oke on the strength of Gardner and dialogue.
This film stars Ava Gardner, Robert Mitchum and Melvyn Douglas, so
you'd certainly expect this to be a very good movie. Well, if that is
the case, you'd be dead wrong. That's because no matter the talents of
these folks, you can't overcome a terrible script...and the one for "My
Forbidden Past" is pretty bad.
The film begins with Mitchum and Gardner preparing to run off to sea to be with each other. However, her family interferes and she never receives a letter from him saying he will return for her. And, since their paths don't cross for some time, when they do meet again, Mitchum is married! And, Gardner is intent on some bizarre sort of revenge--as well as to break up this marriage and have him for herself.
The biggest problem about the film is that it never is believable and the story is awfully hard to believe--and overly complicated. The bad dialog doesn't help, either. It's very hard to believe that they were able to hook good actors into being in this film--but somehow they did. Was it the money or did they hold various loved ones prisoner to force the actors to be in this bilge? I have no idea....all I know is that the film is pretty bad.
The film is much too short .A melodrama demands lavish details ,mainly when it deals with a "forbidden" past.Here Gardner's grandma's racy past is only skimmed over.Her relationship with Mitchum -not convincing as a professor-makes me think of a poor man' s "Jezebel" .And Mitchum's character's attitude does not make much sense when he come s back with a wife.Besides the ending I-hope-she-will -mend-her-ways is unworthy of a great melodrama :never Sirk,Stahl , Minnelli or Wyler would have ended one of their works that way.Ava Gardner is for me the most beautiful actress that has ever been but there are so many works to remember her,better than this one!
MY FORBIDDEN PAST does not full its punches. It is a full-blooded
melodrama set in a time and place where social distinctions matter.
Barbara Beaurevel (Ava Gardner) and her cousin Paul (Melvyn Douglas)
live in comfortable gentility with Aunt Eula (Lucile Watson). They
believe in the kind of social niceties that dictate one's choice of
marriage partner, as well as one's future life; those who fail to make
the grade are abruptly rebuffed. Hence when Barbara falls in love with
industrious yet self-made researcher Mark Lucas (Robert Mitchum),
trouble is bound to occur. Robert Stevenson's film boils up to a
satisfying courtroom climax in which an inevitable deus ex machina
allows a happy ending to take place.
Despite the fact that the film remains relentlessly studio-bound (with only a few second unit shots denoting time and place), it makes a creditable effort of portraying a world riddled with hypocrisies, where Lucas is treated with as much disdain as the African American servant (Clarence Muse) working for the Beaurevel family. Douglas makes an eminently hissable villain with his thin pencil mustache and courtly manners, that do not prevent him from making a pass at Lucas' wife (Janis Carter) in a self-interested act of revenge for Lucas' falling in love with Barbara. Mitchum looks uncomfortable in the cloistered surroundings of a research laboratory, but becomes a formidable adversary for Douglas. Gardner doesn't have much to do, except proclaim her love for Lucas in a series of close-ups; this task she accomplishes competently. Given the constraints of her background, we cannot help but sympathize with her as she tries to escape through love.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The scandals of the old south lead to many classic novels, plays and
movies, and after the triumph of "Gone With the Wind", the movies made
the lives of plantation owners (both rich and broke), wealthy city
residents and even those of a less than noble past a regular part of
the schedule. In many ways, these characters lived much like those of
mixed backgrounds in such British made classics that starred the likes
of Merle Oberon, Margaret Lockwood, David Niven and James Mason. Give
the audience a beautiful femme fatal, a handsome hero, and some
scheming villains, and you've got the stuff that provides enough drama
for years of soap opera material.
"My Forbidden Past" reminds me in many ways of the camp Republic classic "Lady For a Night" which focused on a wealthy saloon owner in Mephis who married her way into high society and became the target of some scheming in-laws. No Memphis Belle she, the beautiful Ava Gardner is the niece of a struggling New Orleans family who is bequested a fortune from her maternal grandmother, once a notorious beauty with a scandalous past. Her matriarchal aunt (Lucille Watson) is determined to keep the dead grandmother's name out of the family, and Watson's less than noble son (Melvyn Douglas) is determined to use the new fortune to restore the one he's lost in bad business dealings. He goes as far as keeping Gardner's doctor lover (Robert Mitchum) from receiving a goodbye letter she wrote to him and he leaves New Orleans, only to return years later with a beautiful wife (Janis Carter) who is quickly seduced by Douglas. The scandal leads to murder with Mitchum accused of the crime and a shocking revelation in court which threatens to destroy many lives.
Unfolding in just over 70 minutes, "My Forbidden Past" is certainly not a classic, but is definitely enjoyable. It's lavish trash, made on a medium budget, and never gives the audience time to become bored. There's a great costume ball where Mitchum and Carter are presented to New Orleans society, where Douglas's nefarious means to an end are revealed, and where Gardner's determination to win back her former lover becomes her one and only goal. Then, there's her visit to her grandmother's grave, the shock of a young boy as he realizes why she is there, and Watson's reaction to the scandal which would bring her great personal humiliation. Watson's grand dame character is both imperious and understanding, but the understanding part of her could never survive the scandal that her old world moralities has desperately tried to keep hidden. The plot twist which leads Mitchum to being accused of criminal intent is presented pretty violently, and the final courtroom scene is almost identical in revelations to the ending of "Lady For a Night".
While this will get a mixed reaction from classic film fans, you can't deny the chemistry between Gardner and Mitchum, the irony of 30's hero Douglas being so despicable here, and the lavishness of the sets, costumes and early twentieth century society where the old south strived to remain intact even though the world and history had greatly altered the way that life back in the land of cotton had moved forward since the end of the civil war some 35 years before.
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