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The title is a misnomer :actually ,it's the male character who had a mysterious past -revealed to the doctor at the end of the movie.
Henry Hathaway has always been one of my favorite American directors :he has always been eclectic ("lives of a Bengal lancer" and "Pete Ibbbetson" the same year!);here an interesting example of the way the director has almost totally mastered the style of Douglas Sirk's melodramas (particularly "all that heaven allows" and "all I desire").
Susan Hayward was perfect as ever as the widow whereas Stephen Boyd was trying to get rid of that "Messala skin" ,a thing he could never achieve:he gives as a effective performance ,very nice when he appears for the first time,then oddly turning into a crude brute before redeeming himself ;whatever he plays ,he is convincing.
In fact,the worst character is the brat :his biological father disappears in the first minutes and the relationship with his son is underwritten;thus he sometimes appears selfish and even cruel (the pitchfork);ditto for Mary:she seems to be only concerned by her own pain,and it takes the words of a doctor -who becomes a true shrink-to make her feel that others too had a raw deal in their past .
Nice use of the locations and of the animals feeling the fire in the forest.
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