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Ambitious but thwarted, Rae Smith meets handsome Marine Paul Saxon, (of the Saxon department store chain), as he passes through Lincoln, Nebraska, on his way home from World War II. There's a definite spark between them but circumstances intervene and he leaves town without her. Later she learns he's married. Determined to make it as a fashion designer, Rae moves to New York and becomes a great success. One day she happens to meet Paul again and again there's that spark but he's still married so, as a form of escape, Rae moves to Rome to set up shop. Once again she meets Paul and finally they begin an actual affair since Paul's shrewish, drunken wife, Liz, won't give him a divorce. Time passes, the affair continues whenever time and place permit, but then, Paul's young son finds out about Rae and Rae's back-street world begins to crumble. Written by
dinky-4 of Minneapolis
The world premier was in Hollywood at the Warner Theater (later the Pacific Cinerama Theater) at 6433 Hollywood Blvd. A picture postcard was made showing a photograph of the opening night scene of "Back Street". The image with searchlights, cars, and crowds was depicted as a "typical Hollywood scene". See more »
[welcoming her to his shaded hotel room]
I've been looking forward to seeing you.
But then why don't you turn on the lights? I don't glow in the dark you know.
See more »
Rae Smith, a talented and successful fashion designer, is the other woman in the sour marriage of Paul and Liz Saxon. Paul is the fabulously rich department store chain owner. Liz is a vicious, parasitic alcoholic who likes having the security of her marriage to Paul from which to conduct her little affairs. Easily manipulated, Paul just can't get rid of Liz to take up with Rae. From Rae's point of view, of course, Paul is the only love of her life and no other man could ever enter her bed. During the lengthy periods when the creaky plot separates her from Paul, she appears to take a vow of chastity.
Divorce is out of the question since Liz won't give Paul a divorce. Under the old fault-standard for divorce, the innocent party could prevent divorce (yet he fails to take advantage of Liz's adultery, mental illness, or alcoholism to sue her for divorce). Just walking out on Liz without a divorce is also impossible because Liz just attempts suicide to bring him back--a tactic which in real life would be guaranteed to drive him away once and for all. And then there's Paul's children, who Liz manipulates as a weapon against Paul. Somehow, Paul believes that the status quo is better for the kids than dispensing with Liz who is anything but a fit parent.
Meanwhile, poor Rae becomes fabulously wealthy but must remain as Paul's kept woman, lurking in the back streets (actually she lives in locations that are anything but the back streets; she's ensconced in lavish villas in Rome and Paris). Her great career as a designer appears to allow her to leave the office at any moment for a tryst. And so, this nonsense continues until the final castastrophe. Remember, during the Hays censorship Code era (which lingered until 1968), adulterers had to suffer terrible punishment.
The characters are completely lacking in nuance in this film. Liz is all bad. Paul is saintly, responsible, and long-suffering. Rae is incredibly talented, ridiculously loyal, self-sacrificing, and monogamous to a fault. The film has lots of soaring (but highly derivative) music, gorgeous locations, stunning costumes, and utter lack of plausible human motivation.
Anybody who can succumb to this over-produced, absurd movie has a definite weakness for weepy soap opera plots.
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