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The End of the Affair (1955)
Something Surprising From 1955.
This is an astonishing artifact from 1955 -- astonishing because it is so grownup and sophisticated in its outlook, and because it grapples with moral complexities and ambiguities that English language films of this period never went near. An adulterous affair begun with a certain amount of cynicism on both sides grows into a true and passionate love affair, which in turn raises issues of guilt, trust, duty, self-denial and religious belief. As a story, it holds our interest and causes us to wonder where it will end. As a parable and philosophical meditation on belief and its role in love and contemporary life, it is both stimulating and unexpectedly moving.
That a novel as layered and difficult was attempted with major stars at this time is surprising enough. That THE END OF THE AFFAIR succeeds on so many levels seems miraculous, especially in the context of most mainstream film product of the mid-'50s.
Van Johnson is not as expressive or deep an actor as the excellent Deborah Kerr and Peter Cushing (and John Mills, Michael Goodliffe and Nora Swinburne) yet his character's relaxed masculinity, reluctant anguish and saturnine, rather malicious jealousy are well-conveyed, and he manages to be a presence you remain interested in. As Greene's Mary Magdalene character, the woman in whom the sacred and profane are mingled, Kerr is terrific in a complex role that is an interesting inversion of her promiscuous, childless woman in the far more famous and popular FROM HERE TO ETERNITY of just two years before. ETERNITY, done for Columbia, the same studio that released this, was far more shallow and conventional in the way it dealt with Kerr's Karen Holmes and her redemption. Just as shallow (and evasive) was TEA AND SYMPATHY, which Kerr did after this, and which received far more fame and attention than was merited.
This 1955 version of THE END OF THE AFFAIR deserves to be much better known and remembered, and all concerned deserve belated kudos for attempting such a provocative film in the midst of Hollywood's synthetic movies of the period. I saw this after recording it on TCM, and would like to see it scheduled in prime time, to perhaps begin to get the wider audience it deserves and to hear commentary from moderator Robert Osborn (for that matter, he ought to do one hour interviews with both Kerr and Johnson while they are still around).
Let the rediscovery and rehabilitation of this good film begin . . .
The Hairy Ape (1944)
Inspiration For Tennessee Williams?
I never saw or read the Eugene O'Neill play of this title, but the movie is little seen so I jumped at the chance to view it. Despite many drawbacks, it is a curiosity and definitely worth a look. And it does contain an extraordinary scene, a moment that I feel must have inspired a greater and more famous play.
Among the more serious flaws are a too schematic, over-determined plot, sluggish pacing and murky photography. Obviously shot on a low budget by an 'independent' (or as close to it as one came during the studio days) none of this is a surprise. If the picture was good or had been more popular at the time, it would be better known today. The information provided by commentators here is interesting in the way it fills in the lefty backgrounds of many of the talents behind and in front of the camera, though all inexplicably fail to mention Dorothy Comingore. Famous for CITIZEN KANE, most of us have never seen her in any other picture and it has often been reported that her career suffered from the blacklist. This would make her, not director Santell or Bohnen perhaps this pictures' greatest victim of that injustice.
The liberties taken with O'Neill's play are pointedly sexual, and they make commercial sense, though they render the plot both melodramatic (in a different way than in the play) and ludicrous. Here, both Hank and Mildred are deeply affected by their first long look at each other, and the iconography of KING KONG and decades of melodramas have led us to expect Hank to menace and possibly rape and murder Mildred, the beautiful, disdainful rich bitch he cannot forget. Instead, there is wisdom, humor and a happy ending for all. But that isn't what the viewer is left with.
William Bendix makes a very strong impression as a bully with a frightening, unstoppable power and potential for violence. But his performance isn't quite as nuanced as his fan club here suggests. At the time, Susan Hayward made a bigger splash, garnering some good notices from critics and the film industry after languishing for years at Paramount as house ingénue and support to bigger stars. It was as a strong-willed, sometimes shrewish woman that she began to make her name, and here she is fresh, insolent and lovely, without the calculating hardness that had set in by the '50s. And Santell gives her (not Bendix) the single greatest and most haunting moment in the film and the best acting opportunity. It happens as Mildred enters the infernal engine room in her white dress and first spies Hank in all his grotesque power and virility. As she enters the closeup frame and the camera tracks in on her face, Hayward must suggest all that the script could not because of censorship restrictions. For that suspended few seconds we see she is transfixed, fascinated, aroused, repulsed -- disgusted as much by her own attraction to Hank as by his ugliness and brutishness. It is a revelation that seems to shatter both of them. The next scenes suggest they have had a kind of breakdown, that they are linked by destiny, are under a sort of sexual spell of what each represented to the other. This and not what follows provides the real emotional climax of the film.
It's an indelible movie moment, and the match-up of sheltered girl and animalistic male suggests the Blanche-Stanley relationship at the heart of the great A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. There too, the working class slob goads the archly feminine upper class lady. Except in STREETCAR it is the woman who is insecure and fragile and the man who is beautiful and arrogant. In THE HAIRY APE, rape seems a likely outcome because Santell daringly implies it is what both characters fear and long for. In STREETCAR it actually does come to pass and forms the climax of the play. It is as if Williams had seen HAIRY APE, was provoked, inspired and aroused by its one sexually galvanizing moment, but rethought the form and implications of the plot to serve his own art and suit his own demons
The Hurricane (1937)
On An Island With You
Directed by John Ford with an extraordinary eye for detail and with tremendous sympathy and sensuality, this picture will be a surprise for those who only know the later Ford films that explore the male worlds of military life on the frontier. In those, Ford seems to take the side of authoritarian severity, as if he had come to agree with the Raymond Massey character of THE HURRICANE, for whom human nature can and should be broken on the wheel of law. But in this earlier film you can feel Ford's deep yearning for the freedom and eroticism of a natural life of the body and the senses.
I grew up with THE HURRICANE, which was a staple of TV viewing throughout the '60s and '70s. But seeing it now for the first time in years I am struck by how subversive of convention it must have seemed in the '30s, and how much it was in sync with the cultural and political wars of the late '60s. Terangi, the kind, capable natural man wants merely to live freely and happily, but he is imprisoned and tortured and unwittingly finds himself in opposition to a rule of law that is anti-love, anti-life, anti-human. Every frame of this film sides with Dorothy Lamour and Jon Hall, the gorgeous young lovers, against the hard fanaticism of Massey's governor. Meanwhile the priest, the doctor, the sea captain and the governor's own wife are sensible, kind-hearted (if condescending) humanists who are on the correct side of the debate, but who are helpless in the face of insane obedience to authority.
Yes, the hurricane is marvelously done, impressive and absorbing, and it acts as a very necessary catharsis after the anxiety aroused by the many injustices Terangi must endure. But what seems to matter most to Ford is the idyll of sexy young love, not seen in films since the first two pre-code TARZAN pictures from MGM. Once married, the couple are stripped of their western clothes by their friends and returned to their near-naked state wearing sarongs and flower leis. It is Lamour's character who signals to her husband that she is ready for the honeymoon to begin, and the camera follows the happy couple to their private island where they lay in the sand to make love under palm trees. Just as sensual is the morning after, where Lamour raises the shades of their hut, letting the sun fall on her husband's naked back, and her hair falls around him as she leans down to kiss him tenderly on the neck. This must have been a powerful vision of romance and eroticism to workaday, Depression-weary audiences. The island scenes cast a naive spell, like something from Melville's early books of south sea island life. Ford films these like silent screen montages, with dissolving images of swaying palms, bare, tanned legs, the look of young, tawny bodies and shining hair. Rather than just a professional job for him, his work on THE HURRICANE seems deeply felt.
Lamour was just right here: Though not yet the wry comic actress she would become, she was rather gravely beautiful in a way unusual for an American star then and now, full of languor and sometimes a startling natural grace. The way Marama suddenly pulls her hair back from her face when first seeing Terangi after eight years is an expressive gesture, full of emotion. Hall was very appealing, with the grace of an athlete and for all his muscularity there is something feline about him. And for those aware of rumors that director Ford may have nursed closeted yearnings all his life (as revealed by Maureen O'Hara in her autobiography of 2005) the fevered way that Hall's body and face are photographed in the midst of his torments will have an added charge and interest.
Bye Bye Birdie (1963)
A Boomer Touchstone.
When 'Bye Bye Birdie' was the hit of the '59-'60 season on Broadway, it was as much for its satirical edge as for the talent on stage or the innovative direction by Gower Champion. By that time it was only too clear to savvy adults that Elvis Presley and rock'n'roll had been thoroughly co-opted and mainstreamed by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. For all its supposed danger and subversiveness in 1956, Rock was a pop culture commodity like any other by the end of the decade.
And by the time BYE BYE BIRDIE hit the screen in 1963, that point was too obvious to have any edge. Presley had long since become a bland and unfashionable movie personality, and rock itself had devolved into the kind of inconsequential June/Moon tunes that in a slightly different form had been hit parade staples for decades.
So the point is, the teen world BYE BYE BIRDIE was parodying was largely gone by that time already. Just a year later, when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan (ironically he was still a King Maker but not for much longer) that world began to dissolve and reform unforgettably. So BIRDIE is the swan song for an era and an expression of Baby Boom nostalgia for kids who were too young to have enjoyed the '50s in quite the same way their older brothers and sisters had. How many children in '63 thrilled to the vigorous twitching of Ann-Margret and Bobby Rydell, hoping that was the teen world that awaited them in the future, only to discover by '68 that alienation and anger were the currency of the day? Not that those emotions were misplaced -- the times themselves demanded them. But there was a sense of loss too, a sense that we had been cheated out of fun: silly, twitchy dances and full skirts and snug pastel pullovers. There's a reason this film made an indelible impression on children then, and perhaps most on girls and gay boys.
It was an old-fashioned musical in a movie era that was confused but evolving rapidly, and Ann-Margret was a transitional star of that moment. A throwback to another Hollywood, she gets the traditional star buildup here, and it works spectacularly. Like Rita Hayworth in GILDA, A-M was the good/bad girl -- fresh and sweet and direct enough to please any elder, but with a smoldering animal eroticism so potent the screen seemed barely able to contain it. She is hot in the runway opening and delicious thereafter but she doesn't really become a star until a pivotal moment in the 'Got A Lot Of Livin' To Do' number when her eyes narrow, she smiles and grits her teeth and her hands envelope the head of a chorus boy while she parses out the lyrics of female sexual emancipation -- Daddy won't know his daughter indeed.
It was a sexual call to action that kids understood and responded to. So THIS was what being a teenager would be like! In that moment and the few minutes that followed, even gay boys felt the tops of their heads come off. It's an excitement that doesn't return until the coda: once again A-M is on the runway, but this time any pretense that she is sweet, innocent Kim McAfee has gone -- this is Ann-Margret, and the sexual light and heat of a new star is palpable. Unfortunately, she was almost immediately to become outdated. Within a few years she was a joke in pictures, and had to wait until 1971 and CARNAL KNOWLEDGE to make a 'comeback' -- at the age of 30, no less. She had made the mistake of starting too late, and being too traditional a Hollywood star just when Hollywood decided to do away with stars, at least those that were provokingly lovely.
So BIRDIE trembled on the edge of a new, harsher era, and those of us who were caught on the cusp of that upheaval feel great affection for the fantasy of rock stars like Birdie, for Sweet Apple High, and for the bouncy, shiny, crisp teenagers we never were.
The Great Waltz (1938)
The Best MacDonald-Eddy Musical That Jeanette And Nelson Never Made.
If there is a genre in which even die-hard contemporary fans of old movies seldom care to delve, it is the once-popular musical operetta. I have steeled myself to watch several Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy movies, and have occasionally been pleasantly surprised, as in my first viewing of ROSE MARIE. I recently caught THE GREAT WALTZ on TCM as part of a festival of Luise Rainer movies, and despite myself I was won over by the skill of the director as well as the opulence of the production.
Miss Rainer's charms elude me. She was pretty and not a bad actress by any means and yet the clammy, self-congratulatory air of masochism and eye-brimming sadness of each of her performances is hard to take. Even when you have to admit that she isn't bad in a given scene, she is insufferable, sometimes almost unwatchable. And she had her most cringing, masochistic and melodramatic role in this picture as the long-suffering wife of a faithless Strauss as played by a puffy Fernand Gravey.
It is Gravey and Miliza Korjus that are the real stars of the film, and this is curious to a modern viewer since neither had the classic good looks of movie stars of the period. What they did have was a stars' confidence and because of the considerable imagination of Julien Duvivier, you believe them as a romantic couple and as stars intoxicated with their own love and talent.
But what is impressive about THE GREAT WALTZ is the way Duvivier transforms potentially dull and static numbers into surreal flights of fantasy. He isn't afraid to be delirious or silly so a few set-pieces unexpectedly catch your attention, make you laugh and then impress you with their theatricality and verve. Such is the orgasmic waltz sequence that takes place in and around a bandstand in the Vienna Woods in which Korjus decisively seduces Gravey. It is Duvivier's attention to detail that makes it: the way Korjus jackknifes to the ground in Gravey's arms and removes her organdy picture hat, the gorgeous line of trees hung with Japanese lanterns on a moonlit set, the way she staggers and tumbles onto the grass after her trilling climax, inviting greater liberties (despite the all-girl orchestra looking on), all of these images make the scene breathless, ludicrous, memorable.
And just because we have blessedly forgotten Strauss's dreary wife, Duvivier concocts a spectacular scene for Rainer too: publicly confronted by her husband's faithlessness, she hurriedly dresses in silks and crinolines determined to kill herself or someone else on the night of his opera debut. Sweeping out of their huge house and down their long staircase to the strains of a waltz, sweeping into a baroque opera house and up an even longer set of steps, she stops, awestruck while several jump cuts reveal the enormity and grandeur of the theatre, the rapt audience and the triumph of her rival, who defiantly swirls into a lavish stage waltz. In contrast, Rainer's smiling-through-tears routine afterward seems an anti-climax, though it is an admirable piece of showmanship and hugely entertaining despite a shrill note of barely controlled hysteria she has cultivated throughout the sequence. Or maybe because of it. Rainer's few strengths as an actress are utterly linked to her considerable weaknesses.
So I'm now not surprised to learn of this film's great success at the time, though I do wonder why the Mac-Eddy productions never got as creative a craftsman as Duvivier to plan and film their pictures. If he had they might be more widely admired today beyond the group of fast-ageing fans who first loved them in the '30s. But maybe nothing can revive interest in this most unfashionable of movie genres.
The Thin Man (1957)
Would Like To See This Again Now . . .
In the early '60s before TV ad rates became astronomical and before small local stations joined large syndicated networks, the airwaves were full of old movies and TV series reruns because no one much cared about the ratings during off hours. Among the antique TV shows from the early and mid '50s that were endlessly repeated were (probably terrible) chestnuts like MY LITTLE MARGIE, OH, SUSANNAH!, PRIVATE SECRETARY, THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE, AMOS 'N' ANDY, THE LIFE OF RILEY, December BRIDE, TOPPER, I MARRIED JOAN, OUR MISS BROOKS, LOVE THAT BOB, and one that I remember especially fondly, THE THIN MAN starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk and with the sexy and incomparable Nita Talbot in a recurring role.
I remember virtually nothing about it except the impressions it left me with: Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk seemed dry, pleasant and sophisticated and had a nice chemistry together. I knew nothing of Powell and Loy and the original series of films at the time, so Lawford and Kirk seemed delightful. And even in childhood, I LOVED Nita Talbot, who guested on lots of other series of the period. Tall, with a model's figure and bearing, she usually wore a Veronica Lake pageboy and had a wry, slinky beauty which suggested a cross between Lauren Bacall and Anne Francis. But her voice was honking and grating and she had a N.Y. accent as thick as a slice of corned beef. The incongruity was delicious and she was wonderful.
The only plot I remember in the series was one in which it was implied that a murdered woman (I seem to remember her as a waitress) had been hacked to pieces and hidden in a trunk -- precisely the kind of grisly detail a child would remember.
While I'm willing to believe this series was awful (certainly most or all of the others I listed must have been) I'd love to see several episodes again, and I'd love to know whatever happened to Nita Talbot.
Trader Horn (1931)
Resonant 19th Century Boys' Adventure.
The comments of Ron Oliver and marcslope are interesting and informative and yet what occurs to me is that this antique with all its racist assumptions about the violence and mystery of 'the dark continent' is a relic of late 19th-century Boys' Adventure fiction. These stories by H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs (as well as dozens of others now forgotten) seem to have had a surprising and lasting life in early talking pictures: TARZAN, THE GREEN GODDESS, SHE and countless serials all featured these mythic adventurers, forgotten white gods and goddesses and black 'savages,' both noble and blood-thirsty. Seeing TRADER HORN reveals that it was among the first and most influential of these movies, so it's unfortunate that it is so little known today.
That's no doubt due to its casual racism as well as the pre-code nudity on the part of the African women filmed on location. But TRADER HORN's naiveté and breath-taking political incorrectness make it a rather fascinating primitive. There are other marks against it: an overlong running time, too-leisurely pacing, wild-life photography that is often dull or (in the case of the slaughter of a rhino and a lion) sickening.
But on the plus side: Harry Carey's direct, natural and gruff performance has been noted by others. I was far more interested in Duncan Renaldo and Edwina Booth. Renaldo was so personable and extraordinarily handsome -- he looked like a prettier Don Ameche and from certain angles seems a dead ringer for a black-haired Brad Pitt -- that I was astonished to have never heard of him. He was certainly no great actor, and yet he had a definite physical presence and was highly photogenic. His Hispanic accent must have been the primary impediment to a career in 'A' pictures. The (in some ways) legendary Edwina Booth turns out to have had a strong facial resemblance to Marlene Dietrich, and like Dietrich she's not a very expressive actress. And yet she throws herself wholeheartedly into her portrait of a wild, willful and childish White Goddess, spitting out all of her dialog in unintelligible movie African. It's camp for sure, but also a gutsy performance.
And the scene in which Carey and Renaldo first meet Booth is memorable: after appearing in their hut wearing only a monkey fur bikini (and showing the kind of long, lean, cut body that contemporary taste demands) she proceeds to have a shrieking tantrum while flogging every African in sight. When confronted by the gorgeous Renaldo, she proceeds to whip him as well (in a scene that obviously inspired a similar one in Clara Bow's CALL HER SAVAGE a year later) while he simply smolders and hardens and she becomes aroused. It is a provocative scene of real sexual tension and something of a revelation.
A bigger one is the fact that in plot and iconography TRADER HORN was an obvious influence on the far more famous and evocative KING KONG. Having grown up with Kong and Fay Wray I was shocked to be watching TRADER HORN for the first time only to note that Carey begot Robert Armstrong as Booth begot Fay Wray and Renaldo begot Bruce Cabot. Such are the random ways that imitation can sometimes unintentionally inspire great folk art.
The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939)
Joan Crawford, in Technicolor yet . . .
Widely considered the worst film Joan Crawford made at MGM (it must have been a low point for James Stewart too, yet it forms no part of the lore about his long career) this is a real curiosity. It has the sort of B-movie plot Sonja Henie was getting in her hugely successful skating pictures at Fox, but this one is done with an A-budget. And because the stars can't skate, it is essentially two pictures in one -- a skating 'spectacular' featuring anonymous athletes which prefigures the ice-skating arena shows we know so well, and a soap opera about a two career couple who can't make their marriage work.
Forget trying to figure out how a major film from the most meticulous of studios could be such a hodgepodge. Simply go with it and happily register its many lapses in taste and logic. In the early scenes Crawford is actually more relaxed and likable than in other pictures from this period, though this changes once her character signs a movie contract. The idea of Crawford playing a star makes perfect sense and one wonders why no one thought of it before. At last her artificiality and posturing has a logical explanation. (But can someone explain why some of Max Steiner's score from GONE WITH THE WIND is played during Joan's drunk scene?) And in gorgeous three-strip Technicolor she looks at once terrifically glamorous and hard as nails. This hardness and the fact that it exposed her age is surely the reason she never gets a color closeup. And though she is a small part of the color portion of the film, she manages to wear no less than three Adrian outfits, the most striking being a brilliant green ensemble with gold and silver embroidery (the 18th Century court outfits the extras wear must have been recycled from MARIE ANTOINETTE).
Assuming Crawford had a choice, why did she do this film? To branch out to a broader family audience than she had before? To cash in on a popular box office fad? Or, at a time when Jeanette Macdonald was still considered Louis B. Mayer's favorite, did Crawford relish getting the Technicolor operetta treatment? Joan took singing lessons for years (her thin, unpleasant voice is briefly heard) and Macdonald had already been in one color film and was about to do another at a time when Technicolor carried the prestige of novelty and expense. Whatever the reason, it must have caused general hilarity in Hollywood -- one can imagine Billy Haines calling up George Cukor to chuckle over the latest bomb Joan had been saddled with. Only Sonja Henie can have been jealous over this turkey.
Night and Day (1946)
The cold, dark, beautiful prince.
I haven't seen DE LOVELY, the new musical biopic about Cole Porter's life -- the movie trailer convinced me it would be as terrible as the reviews say it is. But Stephen Holden's pan in the N.Y. Times caused me to want to see NIGHT AND DAY again since he thought that for all its fraudulence, it caught something right about Porter's life and times. Having seen it recently for the first time since childhood, I can see what he meant. Evidently everything in it is a lie. Okay. Standard for Hollywood biopics.
The more important thing it gets wrong is the music, which for the most part is not handled well. In this period, Warner Bros. did not have talented singer/dancers under contract and it shows here. Ginny Simms is an accomplished if mechanical singer, Jane Wyman a passable one, but neither dances and neither dazzles. Mary Martin had talent and charm but not the looks nor the sparkle to come across well on film. When dancing is called for we get dull, pretentious ballroom/acrobatic routines from anonymous performers. This film needed the kind of musical talent MGM had under contract, and that lack of talent and zip makes for a musically mediocre film despite the fantastic Porter song catalog.
What the film got weirdly right was the casting of Cary Grant because either by his choice or director Michael Curtiz's design, Grant's withholding, enigmatic performance is intriguing, and does most of the work of spelling out 'the gay thing' for audiences in the know then and now. DE LOVELY may well be frank about the fact that Porter was gay, but gay audiences would have gotten the point in NIGHT AND DAY anyway. Lovely, elegant, chilly Alexis Smith does all the pursuing in the film, as do the other women, and yet Cole is charmingly evasive with all of them. They want him -- who wouldn't want to sleep with Cary Grant at the peak of his beauty? -- but he doesn't seem to care about anything but his music. Hmmmm. Where have we heard that before? Even when Linda/Alexis lands him, he's never really hers, he always seems to have his mind and heart elsewhere. There is absolutely no suggestion anywhere in this film that there was intense passion, emotion or love on his side of this relationship, which is unusual in this period. Rather their marriage seems to be a companionable one of mutual respect, which was apparently the case in real life. When Linda/Alexis gets fed up with being neglected in favor of Cole's work, we can also imagine that an endless supply of bellmen, sailors and chorus boys may have had something to do with it as well. The movie can't say this, but it leaves enough space and question marks for the audience to fill in the blanks. And we do.
Even at the end, with Porter being honored back at Yale with the (all male) glee club singing the glorious "Night and Day" and Linda walks in and she and Cole meet again on the brick patio in the moonlight, Grant doesn't kiss her except for a chaste peck on the cheek. Once again, as throughout the film, he is the passive object of her desire and he hardly seems to care. This performance as much as his work in the excellent NOTORIOUS suggests the coldness and misogyny that sometimes lurk in his screen persona. It's explicit in SUSPICION and NOTORIOUS, Hitchcock was exploring it there, but it's actually implicit in NIGHT AND DAY in every closeup where Grant looks simultaneously gorgeous and conflicted. How hard it must have been to be this beautiful and this uneasy about it.
I concur with those here who find the print currently on view on TCM as sub-par. A new DVD is out on NIGHT AND DAY and TCM would do well to show this in future. Meanwhile, feel free to check this picture out to see an example of screenwriters, a director and a star who work hard to suggest what they cannot actually say.
Maybe because STRANGE CARGO, THE HUMAN COMEDY and A GUY NAMED JOE dealt with whimsy and religious fantasy successfully, MGM kept trying with this kind of picture. But HIGH BARBAREE and ADVENTURE (both based on what must have been gassy novels) are dull failures.
I must dissent with the majority view here that ADVENTURE is good and that Clark Gable and Greer Garson are good in it. They are a dismal mismatch as a romantic team and neither is suited to this kind of heavy, 'meaningful' material. In their very different ways, both stars were grounded, practical, sensible, which is not what was needed to bring off this type of romantic fantasy. When they meet and for a long time after, Gable and Garson give too successful an impression of mutual loathing for us to believe later that they have suddenly discovered their great love for each other. Victor Fleming does a very glossy professional job directing this film and both stars get dazzling, dynamically framed closeups and two-shots, but they never seem right for each other. By contrast, in a supporting role, Joan Blondell seems exactly right for Gable, being his female equivalent, having humor and a juicy kind of sensuality.
ADVENTURE is anything but, and the mystical themes never make any sense and are never convincingly connected to the romance. It was a big hit, presumably because people were curious to see these stars together, and to catch Gable's first picture after the war. But this could only have diminished the luster of both of them. And pictures like this must be why Dore Schary was brought into the studio to supplant Louis B. Mayer, who had become lazy and complacent, squandering his two biggest stars on pretentious garbage.