At an estate auction in WWII England, two strangers meet and muse about their families' history and possible connections. Flashbacks reveal the story of the sweet, rich, and beautiful Clarissa Richmond and her friendship with bitter, impoverished Hesther Shaw. Their fates are intertwined even as their paths diverge. Clarissa marries the handsome but cruel Marquis of Rohan while Hesther becomes an actress. Eventually, the two women meet again and Clarissa brings the scheming Hesther into her household. As Clarissa searches for true love, Hesther plots to take away everything that belongs to her.Written by
The basic story in "The Man in Grey" is quite good. However, the choices made for how to tell the story were a bit odd and really prevented a good movie from being exceptional. One problem is that instead of the viewer learning about the characters as the story takes place, there are MANY occasions when the twists in the story are told early on...so that there's little in the way of suspense. For example, Hester warns Clarissa that she's a no-goodnick (or something like that) AND the gypsy sees Hester and immediately knows she's evil...long, long before you see Hester behave abominably! Another problem is that there isn't a lot of suspense about the story...little comes as a surprise.
After a prologue that is both unnecessary AND foreshadows what will take place, the story switches to the early 19th century. Hester (Margaret Lockwood) arrives at a finishing school and soon is befriended by Clarissa (Phyllis Calvert). However, Hester, in a moment of frankness, tells Clarissa that she (Hester) is no good and will hurt anyone who gets in her way. A bit later, Hester runs away from the school and disappears.
So time later, Clarissa graduates and now it's time for her to find a husband. Without even knowing her, Lord Rohan (James Mason) marries her and soon she realizes he has zero interest in her and she is essentially a brood mare...otherwise, he lives his life and she lives hers quite separately. Naturally she's lonely and sad...that is until she happens upon Hester once again. She invites Hester to come live with her....and all sorts 'o bad stuff then happens. Exactly what, you can see for yourself.
As I mentioned above, the story is excellent...the way you KNOW what's going to happen long before it does is simply bad storytelling. Worth seeing but totally lacking in suspense. And the ending, while wild to watch, really seemed out of place considering the sort of man Rohan had been.
By the way, this is a very offensive film when it comes to black people. The language they use and having a white child in black makeup playing a servant is pretty shocking stuff in the 21st century.
Also, two years after this, Margaret Lockwood and James Mason starred in "The Wicked Lady" and they played very similar sorts of roles. However, this later film never telegraphed its moves like "The Man in Grey" and was a much, much better and very satisfying movie.
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