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Back Street (1961)

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... See full summary »

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Writers:

(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Rae Smith
...
Paul Saxon
...
Liz Saxon
...
...
Janey nee Smith
...
Dalian
Tammy Marihugh ...
Caroline
Robert Eyer ...
Paul Saxon Jr.
...
Mrs. Evans
Doreen McLean ...
Miss Hatfield
...
Mr. Venner
Karen Norris ...
Mrs. Penworth
...
Charley Claypole
Mary Lawrence ...
Marge Claypole
Joseph Cronin ...
Airport Clerk
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Storyline

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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She Shut Her Eyes to Shame...When She Opened Her Heart to Love!

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

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Details

Official Sites:

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Language:

Release Date:

12 October 1961 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La calle de atrás  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

John Gavin and Vera Miles play husband and wife in this film, however, it marks their reunion just one year after playing Janet Leigh's boyfriend and sister, respectively, in Alfred Hitchock's iconic thriller, "Psycho". See more »

Quotes

Paul Saxon: [presenting her with a framed portrait of himself] Do you think you can build a room around that?
Rae Smith: Why not? I've built a life around it.
See more »

Connections

Version of Back Street (1932) See more »

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User Reviews

Ross Hunter began to slip...
10 August 2002 | by (An American in China) – See all my reviews

Susan Hayward was surprised when Ross Hunter wanted her for one of his soap-opera movies. "I'm no chiffon gal!" she reportedly said.

But for reasons we'll probably never know, she finally agreed.

Now, frankly, I admire Ross Hunter as a producer. His movies can sum up how studios could bring great talent groups together and make good work: "the genius of the system" as critic Andre Bazin said.

Even without having Douglas Sirk directing, he still maintained a certain level of predicting what would suck an audience into the movie and of pulling out the stops at exactly the right time. Both "Midnight Lace" and "Portrait in Black" (the two he produced after "Imitation of Life" and before "Back Street") are cool movies. But "Back Street" seems to be the first movie he produced where he knew his system and just wound it up ("Get Jean Louis and Frank Skinner and Virginia Grey on the phone...") and let it go. And in winding it up and letting it go, "Back Street" careens like Vera Miles' last drunken ride through rear-projected France.

Perhaps it's the fact that the original message and source material has been so castrated (unlike the racial message in "Imitation of Life" or the conformist society message of "All That Heaven Allows"). In the original novel "Back Street", Rae never develops a career; she allows herself to be a kept woman. So when her lover dies of old age, she finds herself a penniless senior citizen...and eventually she starves to death.

Perhaps it's the fact that Susan Hayward puts her guts into so many of her performances, that her intensity makes the sets and script laughable. Also, she doesn't seem to be comfortable being viewed as a sexy glamour girl in this movie (she's no chiffon gal...), unlike Lana Turner who knew that was her key to fortune and could meld seemlessly with the gloss of the sets and Jean Louis creations.

So seeing Ross Hunter's work in "Back Street" after "Imitation of Life" and other jewels is like seeing how Mark Robson declined when he suddenly had a steady gig directing film adaptations of risque' novels: the craft and attention Robson put into "Peyton Place" is nowhere visible a decade later when he lensed "Valley of the Dolls."

Still, Ross Hunter produced some great work. I suppose he's better known today for the revelation in Douglas Sirk's posthumously printed interviews: Rock Hudson was confused and ambivalent about his sexuality until Hunter introduced him to the gay-boy-party lifestyle. Basically Ross Hunter blew the door off Rock Hudson's closet.


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