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David Lowell Rich
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 »
Watching this film is like having only cookies and ice cream for dinner. One feels guilt-ridden and knows he shouldn't have done it, but it was so good he's almost ready to do it again...and probably will! Producer Ross Hunter was at the helm so there aren't going to be any grey settings, uncombed hair or even a dirt smudge throughout. The film is a masterwork of overproduction and color coordination...the type of film that credits the furs and the oil paintings (!) in the titles. Hayward plays a single career woman in the mid-1940's who dreams of being a successful clothing designer. These early scenes have all the period detail of the 1940's as say...1958. On one eventful meeting with a potential backer, she collides with and instantaneously falls in love with Gavin, a marine just home from WWII. Who can blame her? He's a hunky dream come true and, for a certain amount of the film, he even has facial expression. His mating ritual includes bullying Hayward across a park lawn until she falls face first into a flower patch. From then on, she's hooked. Unfortunately, they are separated by a misunderstanding or two. Cut to years later (where Hayward, 11 years older than Gavin, looks younger and he now has grey in his hair!) which sees Hayward as a designer of dresses with "line" and style. Amusing support is provided by acerbic Gardiner as her mentor and Schafer (Mrs. Howell of "Gilligan's Island") as a gossipy client. The film globe trots to Paris, London, Rome (though, for some reason, a horrific Hayward body double does all the real travelling.) In one of the films many, MANY clichés and contrivances (Hayward even states at one point that, "All the clichés are true."), the former lovebirds are reunited over the fallen-down body of Gavin's wife Miles. Here, the film takes a powerful turn into the camp stratosphere as shrewy, boozy, slutty Miles (in a stunningly vivid performance) makes the pair's lives miserable. Miles is so intensely evil and vengeful that she becomes a sort of hilarious supervillain when compared with the rather saintly, drab lovers. Her histrionics are like manna from Heaven, no more so than when she makes a triumphant and highly memorable appearance at one of Hayward's fashion shows. Gavin also has two kids. One (Marihugh) is a pretty silent Shirley Temple wannabee. The other (Eyer) is a snotty, annoying child who was scarcely ever heard from again, he so irritated filmgoers. The "Back Street" of the title is SUPPOSED to refer to a secretive, undesirable place for the mistress to be kept away on. In Hunter's version, it's a completely charming cottage in the country! Gavin provides Hayward with the cottage's first piece of decor, but note how she moves it from it's original spot so that we can have a special fade out at the end. The comic book-level melodramatics of the film are emphasized right away by titles that show Lichtenstein-esque pictures of the star trio accompanied by a typically heart-tugging Frank Skinner score. In a spiteful move against the audience, Gavin is shown in clingy swim trunks, but only briefly, from the waist up and in a dimly lit scene! Hayward shows a lot of energy and conviction in her role. Her best scenes involve several pivotal telephone calls. Another note: Grey (a charming actress who plays Hayward's sister) is the same age in real life, yet looks like she could play Hayward's mother! Did she live hard or was she denied the star lighting that Hayward got?? Hunter considered her his good luck charm and cast her in nearly everything until "Lost Horizon". Big mistake to leave her out! That was a notorious flop.
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