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Based on Daniel Defoe's 1722 novel of the famed English adventuress Moll Flanders. Moll is first engaged as a maid by an eighteenth-century English family chiefly composed of sex-starved males. She marries the imbecilic second son, who prefers booze to copulation. Too embarrassed to speak the truth of him, she demurely tells friends, "Modesty forbids me to reveal the secrets of the marriage bed." She then meets a rich banker, becomes maid-companion to a count and his lady, and finally weds the banker, but leaves him on their first night together. She then joins a group of thieves, falls in love Jemmy, and becomes their number one asset before she is sent to prison. After she is released, she finds Jemmy, and, in the end, everyone is on an America-bound boat except the banker, who fortuitously dies of a heart attack before he has had an opportunity to alter his will. Written by
This could have been a great movie--taking, as it does, a delightfully farcical approach to Defoe's novel. Moll is an innocent and relatively virtuous young woman, who finds herself in sexual jeopardy again and again--as she bounces from one depraved environment to another. Lots of self-conscious references to Tom Jones, which had been an unqualified success just a few years before. Sadly, where Tom Jones was anchored by Albert Finney, an actor of impeccable skill and astonishing range, Kim Novak is simply not up to the task. She is wholly out of her depth here; her only ability is looking pretty and being a good sport about being placed in various kinds of dishevelment. Still, despite her inability to project any complexities of character (a good woman struggling to maintain some kind of honour, and whose greatest temptation is to marry money rather than the con-man she really cares for), the movie's not bad. Lansbury, Sanders, DeSica, Palmer, Parker, Griffith, and (especially) Leo McKern are wonderful--so good the movie is still at B or B+ level, despite the relative emptiness at the top. BTW It's not surprising that Johnson and Novak didn't stay married for long. He was so far superior to her in acting ability, there must have been a slew of professional tension there...
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