"Like this tired troubled earth ,I've been rollin' since my birth...."
The second episode takes the viewer into more known territory ;all the previous characters -except mom,for a short phone call about the accident that killed an old man-have disappeared ,living Clyde Griffiths on his own ....
On his own indeed and ,although as I previously wrote he is too old for the part, Werner Bentiregna has,here, more screen presence ,although ,paradoxically,he has to keep a low profile during the whole part. The action tends to be accelerated ,compared to the book,and by and large,the screenplay is firm and well constructed.
Gilbert GRiffith ,Clyde's cousin ,does not resemble him ,which is the biggest flaw of the episode ,since in the book ,their resemblance was often mooted ;but the snub person is exactly how Dreiser depicts him:when a self-conscious Clyde holds out his hand to him,he refuses to shake it;oddly,he is part of Sondra's group,whereas he despises her in the novel.And all in all ,it is a good change ,for it intensifies the wealthy young man's contempt.
Clyde remains shy,self-conscious,gauche ,in this world of luxury he does not belong to ;the scene of the dinner in which only Samuel Griffiths shows some sympathy for his nephew,is remarkable: when the young jet set appears (a screeching to a halt always signals their arrival),Gilbert and his sister leave for a drive with them ,leaving his cousin ,sadly eating dinner with his uncle and his aunt.
Although foreman Whigham has warned him (no affairs with the workers),Clyde cannot stand his loneliness,and when he sees Roberta ,it's love at first sight (their attraction is astutely shown as we see their faces appeared superimposed on hands working on the conveyor belt)
But Clyde treats his flirt as his cousins do: when the rich kids appear in the cafe where a black piano player performs a bluesy tune,he follows them,leaving the poor girl in front of her cup of coffee.
Sondra Finchley (played by beauty Virna Lisi ,the only member of the cast who has enjoyed an international career later on,culminating in her portrayal of Catherine De Medicis in "La Reine Margot" (1993)) already fascinates Clyde :she's got everything going for her,beauty,charm,wealth ,and she might be the way to taste this American dream he longs for;but at this stage,he cannot even think of dating her.
That's why he returns to Alberta for comfort ,but as he woos her ,they are surprised by a policeman -a scene also featured in Stevens' version- and they have to leave for the girl's room.
Once again,the director shows finesse: to tell the viewer Roberta has yielded to Clyde ,a light briefly comes at her window.
Actually ,tragedy has only begun.
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