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Alfred E. Green
Edward G. Robinson,
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Kay Francis is terrific in a good but not so terrific movie
A direct look at divorce (and marriage) with the distinct view that divorce is a shame. In fact, the first short part of the movie is a bit of moralizing by a (male) judge, laying the guilt on a woman for using the "wrong" discipline on her son, and for complaining that her husband locked her up in her room. It's hard to take, if you take it seriously. But this prelude is really only a set-up for a plot that begins, indirectly with the same judge, about a woman who has been through quite a number of divorces.
And this woman, Diane, is played by the real great actress of the movie, Kay Francis, who also co-produces. That is, this is her movie, and she doesn't mind being a kind of charming villain, breaking into a happy family like a worldly urbane siren, apparently irresistible. She's terrific. But you worry very much about the "other" woman, Martha, the simpler but more pure one, played with real angst by Helen Mack, who I'd never heard of, but who had a full career in the 1930s. A shame to see that this was her last film.
1945 is of course the year the War ended, and this movie is an alternate take on the film noir version of the G.I. returning to a changed world, unable to adjust. Here it is not a bit fanciful or infested with crime and visual drama. No, this is the real deal, and it might strike some as a little ordinary at times, but for me this helped it enormously. The sincerity of everyone, and the straight up acting by the whole cast, is perfect for the theme. Diane, it turns out, is a true femme fatale, but made so everyday and believable you can't really call her that fairly.
The point overall is paying attention to what matters in your relationship--especially appreciating that old fashioned husband-wife relationship, with children and home and so on. It's persuasive because it sets things up to be persuasive, even though Diane is a powerhouse and a successful women, something everyone appreciates. Everyone except Martha. The man between these two women is a bit of a follower. He arrives back from fighting to his wife and children and he's still a soldier somehow, not coping, but wanting to cope. If there's a weakness here, it's him, not just the actor Bruce Cabot, but the role, which is too passive to give it life.
The movie, though, works overall. It not only makes its moral point, but it creates a sense of how the transition of men back home might have been, a kind of precursor to the more famous film about these themes a year later, "The Best Years of Our Lives."
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