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William A. Seiter
Each of the three leads had previously collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock. Ray Milland starred in Dial M for Murder (1954), Joan Fontaine starred in Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941) and Teresa Wright starred in Shadow of a Doubt (1943). See more »
George Stevens directs this Paramount melodrama from the early 50s, and it stars Joan Fontaine as a boozing actress (based on Laurette Taylor); Ray Milland the married man she wants; and Teresa Wright as his sweet-tempered wife.
All the right ingredients are present, if not to make it a blockbuster, then at least a highly engaging drama. But something is terribly wrong. It's just plain dull. How can such a talented group of artists turn out something like this?
Indeed, they attempt to present a not-so-unique message: that a very successful but isolated woman (Joan Fontaine) can be redeemed by a man (Ray Milland) who is a proper stranger. Yet she could just as easily have been a prostitute as opposed to a renowned stage actress; and he just as easily a pimp as opposed to an advertising executive. Of course, if that had been the case, the film would've been much seedier and not as polished as Stevens' finished product. And Fontaine would not have the great luxury of wearing such a glamorous hairstyle or fabulous wardrobe.
It is Milland who fares best in this picture. He is embroiled in still another off-the-wagon story. Only here he is the recovered drinker-- unlike his roles in THE LOST WEEKEND and NIGHT INTO MORNING, where he is in full-blown inebriation mode-- with his character this time valiantly trying to save Fontaine's flawed heroine.
As the long-suffering wife, Teresa Wright seems subconsciously attuned to the fact that he has this other life with Fontaine. Wright takes a mediocre part and turns chunks of coal into diamonds, but this production and her involvement in it pales in comparison to the grittier, more grabbing work she does in THE MEN, or her earlier essay of sweet American goodness in THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. Clearly, her character and Milland's character have seen better years together.
The direction and casting are not the problem; however, Paramount could've made a much more interesting and engaging picture, and I am still trying to figure out what doesn't exactly work with SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR. I think the real problem is Dwight Taylor's script, which has inspired moments but takes longer than a kettle of tea to come to a boil.
Indeed, if SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR had been tightened up and condensed into something that ran just under an hour, it would've made for a really great episode of live television, you know on one of those playhouse/anthology programs.
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