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Medical student Philip fall in love with Mildred, a waitress. Although she is a flirt, they have a love affair. But when Philip is told about her constant infidelity, they break up. Mildred quits her job and becomes a prostitute. But Philip is still in love with her. Written by
I do not think this is a movie about love. It is a movie that compares and contrasts MANY human emotions that hold us in bondage - most notably, love and obsession. I pity people who think that what Philip (Harvey) feels for Mildred (Novak) is LOVE! However, of the 3 portrayals of Mildred in this Somerset Maugham tale, this one is the strongest. Maugham, himself, thought so. When you see Novak's Mildred, you will know why.
Bette Davis' performance in the original may have been groundbreaking, but neither the film nor her performance is great. Davis' performance leaves indelible impressions; it earns my respect and admiration. However, it is not very nuanced; she is nothing but a shrew. Also, she is simply not pretty enough to inspire Philip Carey's obsession with Mildred. The original film and the portrayal by Davis are classic not because they are great, but because they are groundbreaking.
For my money, both of the remakes are better movies. Eleanor Parker and Kim Novak both portray a Mildred who is prettier and less shrewish - and consequently more believable. Mildred becomes both more understandable and more pathetic. Also, because they are both prettier than Davis, obsession with either one of them is a great deal more conceivable.
Kim Novak's talent was almost as great as her beauty. She really has a chance to shine in this role. Her Mildred is easily the best portrayal. She delivers an incredibly nuanced performance that renders Mildred much more accessible and sympathetic and less despicable. She truly is human, and in bondage to her obsessions. Bette Davis' one-dimensional portrayal of Mildred absolute pales by comparison with Novak's.
Consequently, this film is also better, for providing a central character that is far more complex and human. Only through the Mildred portrayed with the beauty and complex humanity of Kim Novak does the character of Philip ever make any sense.
Regardless of what you may have heard about Kim Novak or this version of Somerset Maugham's story, give them a shot. I think you'll appreciate this unjustly maligned movie.
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