Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
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Harrison plays Sir Alfred De Carter, a famous symphony conductor who has recently wed the beautiful and much younger Daphne (Darnell). Upon returning from a successful concert tour, Sir Alfred is confronted by his brother-in-law August(Rudy Valle), whom he had charged to look after Daphne while he(Sir Alfred)was away. Merely wanting August to drop in on Daphne on occasion, Sir Alfred is shocked to find out that August instead, enlisted a private detective to shadow his wife around town. Outraged when presented with the detective's file, Sir Alfred refuses to even look at it. However, he is eventually confronted with the sleuth's findings, which to his chagrin, reveals that while he was away, Daphne made a very suspicious late night call to a man's room wearing only a negligee. He is further devastated to find out that the rogue in question is his own right-hand man, Tony (Kurt Kreuger), a handsome, dapper fellow more closer in age to Daphne. Believing the worst, Sir Alfred's pristine world is suddenly turned upside down, and he becomes a man consumed with jealousy and suspicion.
From here we watch Sir Alfred's gradual meltdown as the thought of his wife's infidelity haunts his every moment. Even the concert stage can't provide him any solace. While performing before a sold out audience, his mind is less on the music and more on how he will deal with the adulterous duo. With his baton wailing wildly, his mind plays out various fantasies; his first thoughts are of murder, concocting an elaborate scheme which will leave Daphne dead and Tony framed as the killer. In another scenario he sees himself as the forgiving saintly husband, allowing his young wife to leave with his blessing, even going so far as to write her a check to cover their anticipated needs. Finally, he envisions himself cast him as the crazed, pitiful victim, confronting Daphne and Tony and committing suicide before their guilty eyes. As the music ends Sir Alfred has settled on murder as his method of revenge. He abruptly ends his performance and proceeds to put his plan into effect. Hilariously, nothing seems to go quite as smoothly as it had in his vision.
Harrison is masterful as the prim and proper husband who becomes the green-eyed monster bent on revenge. Under Sturges direction, Harrison succeeds in conveying the frailty of the male ego, when faced with the possibility that the little lady may have found the grass a little greener in the neighbor's yard. Darnell as Daphne looks ravishing as the suspected spouse. She ably plays innocent enough to draw doubts about her husband's charges, yet sexy enough to make you believe that the accusations just might be true. A very entertaining movie, I would definitely recommend Unfaithfully Yours particularly for Rex Harrison fans, as this is one of his finest performances.
Preston Sturges is always an excellent writer and director, but his quick wit and double entendres are a revelation in this film. One almost has to watch it two or three times to get every comment uttered and facial expression portrayed by our protagonist (Harrison). His delivery is superb, sometimes almost funnier than the words he is saying. Darnell and the supporting cast provide excellent straight and slapstick moments. Dudley Moore starred in a remake of this film in the 80's which was also enjoyable, but having now seen this film, I highly recommend the original over the remake. It is an hour and a half of pure delight.
The movie stars Rex Harrison in what might be seen as a kinder, gentler cousin of his egomaniacal diction professor in My Fair Lady (1964). Here, Harrison is Sir Alfred de Carter, a world-renowned symphony conductor who is still astoundingly infatuated with the woman he refers to as his "bride," Daphne (charming Linda Darnell). The movie never declares how long or short of a time the Carters have been married, but judging from their passion level, one would guess they're still in the honeymooning stage.
(The far more down-to-earth married couple, Alfred's in-laws August and Barbara, are portrayed wonderfully by Rudy Vallee and Barbara Lawrence. Barbara gets all the great barbs off against her husband, who is only to happy to show his ignorance of them.)
One day, August accosts Alfred with the unfortunate news that he paid a detective to tail Daphne while Alfred was out of town. Alfred is so convinced of his wife's fidelity that his reaction starts at outrage and goes haywire from there. Little by little, though, Alfred is given reason to think that Daphne might have needed some spying-on after all. At his concert that evening, Alfred conducts three pieces by Rossini, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner, and with each piece, Alfred imagines the stylish revenge he will extract upon Daphne for her presumed cheating.
From this sober-sounding scenario, Sturges--as he always did--goes all over the place, from sparkling dialogue to skittering slapstick to rich drenches of sentiment. And the melange has never worked better than it does here. Just for kicks, take three of the movie's set-pieces: Alfred's achingly funny dressing-down of August for siccing a detective on Daphne, the first fantasy where Alfred hatches an elaborate murder scheme, and Alfred's drunken attempt to carry out the scheme. Three scenes of complete different tones, and they all plausibly fit into the same movie. Now try to imagine any modern-day comedy-maker whose work would display the wit of any of those scenes.
The Criterion Collection DVD of the movie does it full justice. It includes a seemingly irrelevant but nonetheless enjoyable critique of Sturges' work from Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones. And an interview with Sturges' widow Sandy, as well as copies of voluminous memoes to Sturges from uncredited producer Darryl Zanuck, demonstrate why the movie was initially a colossal box-office failure. Zanuck hounded Sturges to the point that the gifted creator of (to name but two) The Palm Beach Story and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek began doubting himself as a writer, resulting in the final humiliation of Zanuck cutting the film on his own. Then a timely scandal involving Rex Harrison forever killed the box-office chances of a black comedy starring Harrison as an ostensible woman-murderer.
Happily, Unfaithfully Yours, like Chaplin's similarly dark Monsieur Verdoux, survived its prudish times and has become renowned as a great movie. Alfred's take on Delius might be delirious (as professed by one of his fans, played by the great Sturges alumnus Edgar Kennedy)...but Sturges himself remains stupendous.
There are a couple of problems, though. The situation and structure are brilliant, but the main character, while we can understand his mental anguish, becomes too mean as the picture progresses. As much as he seemed to love his wife in the first act, it is difficult to believe, even under the circumstances, that he would be that cruel towards her. Even if I did buy his awful temper (this guy's worse than Othello), it really is hard to forgive him for being such a tremendous *sshole when he comes around at the end. The film also suffers from what has to be the longest extended slapstick sequence in film history. It starts out great, especially the bit with the phone operator, but as the guy breaks more and more stuff, it just gets old. Also, with the telephone bit, the fourth time was the charm - it got a big laugh from me, but the fifth time was really too much. All and all, despite these criticisms, it still comes off as a pretty great and memorable film from a true master. 9/10.
The famous conductor has everything working against him as a sudden attack of jealousy gets the best of him. Alfred begins putting a plan together as he starts to lead his orchestra into a concert. As each piece in the program is played, Alfred begins planning how to deal with Daphne because he has reasons to believe she has been cheating him with Tony, his handsome, and younger, male secretary.
Preston Sturges, the creative mind behind this enjoyable film, was at the top of his profession. With this film he solidified his position as one of the most innovative directors of that era in Hollywood. He wrote and directed with impeccable style that characterized most of the work he did for the cinema.
Rex Harrison gave an amazing performance as Alfred, the conductor whose jealousy gets the best of him. The last sequence at his apartment, after the concert is one of the best comic turns by this actor who goes through all the emotions, and furniture, in a frenzied manner. Beautiful Linda Darnell is excellent, although her part doesn't allow her to do much more. Rudy Vallee, who had worked with Sturges before, shows an ability to bring to life his character. Barbara Lawrence, Kurt Kreuger, Lionel Stander, and Edgar Kennedy are seen in supporting roles.
A delicious comedy thanks to Preston Sturges.
Rex Harrison is the great British conductor Sir Alfred De Carter, who is married to the beautiful (but somewhat younger) Daphne (Linda Darnell). Daphne is sister to Barbara (Barbara Lawrence) who is married to a billionaire August Henschler (Rudy Vallee) Leading a major orchestra on tour, De Carter finds when he gets home that August hired a detective (Edgar Kennedy) to keep an eye on Daphne. There is a full report suggesting that her behavior was incorrect. De Carter is furious at August's actions, and goes to confront the Detective. But he finds Sweeney the Detective a fan of his music, and actually a fairly reasonable man. After an initial moment of anger, De Carter decides to read the report. He finds that the evidence suggests that Daphne has been having an affair with his secretary Anthony (Kurt Krueger).
The background of the story, and an interesting sequence showing Sir Alfred in rehearsal, takes up about half an hour of the movie to set up the story. We see Sir Alfred (deeply troubled, and already snapping at Daphne and Anthony) conduct Rossini, Tschaikovski, and Wagner in a three part concert. Each time he conducts he is thinking of his marriage partner and how to handle her. He imagines a perfect murder that pins the killing on Anthony. He imagines an overwhelmingly saintly version of himself being all forgiving and generous to his departing wife, leaving a self-hating Daphne in tears. He finally imagines confronting Daphne and Anthony with his pistol and playing Russian Roulette, ending with his own shocking suicide.
The concert ends, and the conductor goes home to put his schemes into effect, starting (of course) with revenge by murder. Of course, if this was a Lang or Hitchcock film the revenge would have been effectively carried out. It's Sturges however, so everything possible to carry out the "perfect" murder goes wrong. My personal favorite is a recording device that will enable him to make a record of himself saying "Help...Tony stop! Stop!" or something like that, and changing the pitch to resemble the voice of Daphne screaming! In the vision it was so simple. But the recording device falls through a window, causes Harrison to fall through a chair, keeps throwing the record off the turntable, and when he tries to follow the "easy to follow instructions" the plans look more complex than an atom smasher.
The same thing is repeated for the two other visions, with equally embarrassing failures. It is only at the tale end of the film that Sir Alfred is able to find a quiet way out of the mess of his life, without any real embarrassment.
Sturges did very well indeed in this film. Harrison was quite pleased with this role, which he felt (with THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR) was the best he did in Hollywood in the 1940s. He felt that Sturges' script was better than Shakespeare. The film also gave Sturges the chance to give Edgar Kennedy a splendid last moment on screen, as the Detective who loves De Carter's handling of Handel and Frederick Delius. Kennedy is only in the film about five minutes, but does well - even though he looks ill (he'd die in 1948). Lionel Stander, as Carter's business manager Hugo, keeps the annoyed conductor from ringing his idiot brother-in-law's neck several times. Linda Darnell is as sexy as she appeared in LETTER TO THREE WIVES, and to the end we wonder if she and Anthony did have an affair. And Vallee appears as hopelessly incompetent in being helpful as he was in romancing Claudette Colbert in Sturges' THE PALM BEACH STORY.
But the film failed. There is a downer atmosphere around it of death. First Kennedy's demise (mentioned above), and then the Harrison - Carole Landis Suicide Scandal as well. The idea (to a 1948 American audience, tired of death from World War II) of humor from subjects like murder and suicide was too much. The film flopped, and Sturges never regained his footing. Following it came the half-way decent THE BEAUTIFUL BLONDE OF BASHFUL BEND with Betty Grable, which ended his Fox years, then his living abroad in Paris, and then the awful THE FRENCH, THEY ARE A FUNNY RACE. One can only say that at least Sturges did do the string of great comedies that he was able to do while he could, and be grateful for that.
This movie is, at times, very black. It starts out pretty funny with Harrison spitting out his lines rapidly and his sense of comic timing was just perfect. When he has the fantasies though it turns dark and is pretty gruesome--especially for 1948. However, when he tries to carry them out and things go wrong, the film is uproarious. I've seen this film three times and I STILL laugh out loud at the last section. I saw it at a revival theatre two times and people were literally bent over in their seats helpless with laughter! This isn't for everybody--it was a critical and commercial bomb in 1948 and a lot of people still find it too sick to be funny. I can see their point--there's nothing funny about a man trying to kill his wife, but this is a MOVIE--not real life. It all ends happily also.
My only problem, and this is minor, was Darnell. She seems miscast here. But the script is quick and witty, the cast is great and they all go full throttle and the use of music is superb. Basically one of the funniest black comedies ever made. A must see! This gets a 10 all the way.
"Purple with plumes on the hips"
This is a film where you are not supposed to like the leading character. That makes his over-the-top actions all the more funny, and Harrison relishes every moment. Darnell, of course, is truly beautiful, the most ravishing clothes horse of the 1940's, but has nothing to do but look lovely and confused as Harrison's menace increases. Lionel Stander has some amusing lines as Harrison's pal, while Vallee, Barbara Lawrence (as Darnell's sister), Kennedy, and Bridge offer fine support. Sturges, responsible for some of the best screenplays and for directing some of the finest comedies in Hollywood's history, adds another gem to his resume. The music too is wonderful, furiously as part of the plot as Harrison's insanity is. This was remade somewhat successfully by Dudley Moore in 1984, one of the more obscure classics to be re-done. It has grown in cult status over the years, but was totally overlooked for awards during its release year. The film remains a showcase for its stunning leading man who in spite of 40's classics such as "Blithe Spirit" and "The Ghost & Mrs. Muir" wouldn't become legendary until he uttered those immortal stage and screen words, "Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?" years later.
This is Preston Sturges at his iconoclastic best, sharpening his trademark wit to a keenness matched only by the startling, contrasting darkness of his humor. Notice how the catharsis of Rex Harrison's murderous daydreams lends an emotional brilliance to his interpretation of each musical score, and note too the malicious glee he takes in slashing his wife's pretty neck with a straight razor, and later watching his bête noir consigned to the electric chair.
Harrison's dapper English urbanity was perfectly suited to Sturges' unique, demented brand of verbal hysteria; one need only imagine Dudley Moore in the same role in the inevitable 1984 remake to appreciate the sophistication of the original. Sturges was not unaccustomed to getting away with murder in his comedies, but it's hard to believe a film of such daring poor taste could ever have been made under the moral straightjacket of mid-1940s Hollywood. Like all of the director's best efforts it hasn't aged a day since, and if anything is even funnier (and more chilling) when seen today.
I've never quite loved Preston Sturges as a director or Rex Harrison as an actor, so having the two of them together here didn't bode well, and I thought I'd announce my bias. And sure enough, on this second viewing I was reminded of a kind of crisp calculation that both of them have. Sturges makes amazing movies, no question, and the best of them (Palm Beach Story is my favorite) are hilarious classics. To see this one for what it offers you might first see a classic Sturges screwball from 1941 or 1942. But even those are clinical at heart (if they have a heart), so it's a little like sipping a very dry, clean martini and getting drunk. Alone. No olives. Wit and sophistication do better in the hands of Cole Porter, somehow, but see for yourself.
Harrison the actor overcomes his harsh demeanor in a movie like My Fair Lady because the music and the style there give him some kind of liberty, but here he is supposed to be sympathetic in his demented cruelty, and I only wish him failure. He is, to be sure, plotting the death of his wife. Three times. And then the fourth, beyond the symphony podium, with its madcap bedlam. It's funny in that zany way you have to laugh at. And you will laugh.
I love classical music and like the structure of the film, but as usual with Sturges, this structure makes the whole process detached and too too clever. Sturges himself wrote the screenplay for this idea way back in 1932, and if it had been shot then, before the Hays code, before the real rise of screwball, we would have had a very different movie. But what we have here is admirable and interesting, for sure, if not the zinger it could have been with a different tilt.
Was watching TV one night with my mother, many years ago, and this film was shown, uncut and only rarely interrupted by commercials. We got to laughing so hard, especially during a slapstick scene involving a very old-fashioned and cumbersome tape recorder, that I'll never forget that evening. The recording devices which would now be available to Rex Harrison's character, as a husband whose suspicions about his wife's fidelity have been mistakenly raised by his busybody brother-in-law, hilariously incarnated by Rudy Vallee, make that particular scene an antiquated curiosity. But so much of the rest of Preston Sturges' inventions and dialogues in this one more than stand the test of time.
A few years after that TV broadcast this film was shown at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood as part of an annual springtime marathon of classic films. On the big screen the full gloss of Twentieth-Century Fox's resources, so well employed by Sturges, were apparent. The print was pristine and the whole enterprise looked and sounded so much better than a TV broadcast or video transfer ever could. I'll never forget the scene where Harrison's elegantly imperious orchestra conductor confronts an unexpected fan (Was it Detective Sweeney or O'Brien the tailor? - Can't quite remember, though I'm fairly sure it was the former, so well played by Edgar Kennedy.) and bitterly upbraids him for his apparent appreciation of classical music and Sir Alfred's preeminence on the concert stage, yet this underling is engaged in an occupation that Sir Alfred regards as beneath contempt. How Harrison must have relished those lines!
With Alfred Newman doing yeomanly service in handling the complex musical chores involved in this project and Twentieth's own beauty, Linda Darnell, given a suitable opportunity to prove she was more than just a lovely subject for a cinematographer to lavish care upon, this film deserves a high ranking in the canon of Mr. Sturges. The 1984 remake, with Dudley Moore, is something I have studiously avoided and I note that it does not appear to be available on video.
This is a hilarious movie, with Harrison absolutely magnificent - and I might add, totally unlikable. One wonders if Darnell will stay with him once the bloom is off the rose. Lanky and sure of himself, though not particularly handsome, Harrison has a certain magnetism, not to mention a snappy way with a line. "Will I see you tonight at the concert?" Vallee asks him. "Yes!" Harrison yells. "I'm generally there on the nights when I conduct!" His last scene alone in the apartment is a scream, mainly because Harrison doesn't go for laughs but takes the whole thing very seriously and in character. Darnell is beautiful and appropriately cloying. Edgar Kennedy, as a classical music loving detective, has a wonderful scene with Harrison.
I haven't seen the remake, but I noticed its voting average is lower than the original's. I can imagine Dudley Moore being quite funny, but this role, with its arch egotism, was tailor-made for Harrison.
I expected much more of this, but this was based largely on my liking of SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1941). Most of Sturges' other films are perhaps not brilliant but at least they were hilarious and make for fine comedy, but this one strains for laughs, that are simply not there. Often hailed as some kind of masterpiece, I failed to see it. I'll take any other of his films for this one. At least they're funnier, hands down.
The film is beautiful to look at, very stylish, and masterfully scored, but the main problem is, I'm supposed to root for a deeply unsympathetic character in a story that seems to exist solely to marvel it's own genius and complexity. What's more, Rex Harrison has no talent for comedy whatsoever. He tries hard but to no avail. All we are left with is supposedly witty dialog that has no purpose at all. I wouldn't dare to dismiss any Sturges-film, and perhaps the genius of this film is beyond my reach, but if you're looking for the old-fashioned madness of earlier Sturges, you won't find it here.
Camera Obscura --- 5/10
But therein lies the weakness in the premise. Darnell is so obviously devoted (to the extreme and with extreme patience) to her temperamental artist of a husband, that it is inconceivable that he would, for one moment, suspect her of infidelity based on hearsay and immediately have her followed by detectives.
There are three flashbacks--with at least one of them being very clever while the others don't quite fit the bill. But the final scene (back to reality) is an uneven blend of slapstick and sight gags that simply go on too long before the windup which has him adoring his wife again.
Not Sturgess at his best and it's the script that's the main weakness because the acting is fine. Rex Harrison seems to be doing a rehearsal for Henry Higgins and Linda Darnell is charming (if unbelievably patient) as the doting wife. Good support from Lionel Stander, Barbara Lawrence and Kurt Kreuger, as well as Edgar Kennedy.
Not as excruciatingly funny as it strives to be with a weak finale. A big bonus is the effective use it makes of classical music.
Not to take away from the excellent performances of the two leads, Rex Harrison and Linda Darnell, but the marvelous character actor Edgar Kennedy nearly steals the show playing the private detective Sweeney who just happens to be a lover of classical music and worships Sir Alfred who could handle Handel like nobody could handle Handel. Rudy Vallee too shines under Sturges' guiding hand the way he shone in "Palm Beach Story." Vallee was such a versatile entertainer that he could play just about any part but he was always at his best when Sturges was in the driver's seat.
This is a film that the viewer has to watch several times to get the feel of what Preston Sturges is all about. Though Sturges left a gallant legacy of wonderful off the wall humorous works such as "The Great McGinty," "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek," and "Sullivan's Travels," this movie "Unfaithfully Yours" may very well be the best creation of them all.
This is the story - for the first 45 minutes absolutely NOTHING happens. This is quite difficult to achieve so deserves a mention. Rex Harrison hams it up, trying to be funny (his technique being to speak loudly and quickly) but he only succeeds in irritating the viewer. Then, whilst conducting an orchestra, he imagines 3 scenarios as a result of believing that his wife has cheated on him. He tries to put one of these scenes into practice and makes a drawn out mess of it that tests the viewers' patience as we are expected to laugh along with the unfunny antics that ensue.
Harrison is way too OTT and the film contains a lot of slapstick, very obvious, visual humour which tediously drags on. An example of the humour you can expect goes like this: Harrison stands on a chair but puts his foot through it (ha ha ha), then he opens a cupboard and something falls on his head (ha ha ha), then he drops something (ha ha ha), then he puts his foot through the chair again (ha ha ha), then he falls over, etc - this scene goes on for 10 -15 minutes but it seems like a billion hours. And its not funny at any point.
The film is very boring.
Even better, for a Hollywood movie by a (till then) popular director, is that it attempts some of the formal daring of Ulysses. One of the reasons the film's structure seems so strange is that it doesn't follow a traditional narrative movement (eg of a play, novel or film), but tries to match the abstract patterning of music (like the episode 'Sirens'), the film's subject matter. The development of themes, motifs, antiphony, repitition, give the film the same fluidity, richness and depth of a symphony, and this plays havoc with our conventional narrative expectations.
Further, like 'Oxen In The Sun', which relates narrative in styles pastiching the 'best' (clean, proper, elegant) of English prose, before collapsing in a babble of slang and dialect, UNFAITHFULLY YOURS develops its story through the history of popular classical Romantic music, from Rossini, to Wagner to Tchaikovsky, from populist musical entertainment made for the people, to solemn music drama more appropriate to cathedrals, to sophisticated souffle dilution, before Carter's narrative collapses into slapstick and farce, wholesale destruction, mirrored in the grotesque, carnivalesque, distorted music, and the painful lashes of feedback.
Sturges' view of marriage is alarmingly bleak, not just including the reprehensible coupling of pompous, sterile miser August Henshler (a priceless Rudy Vallee) and his bored sarcastic golddigging wife, Barbara (like her sister - Carter's misogyny is not without some justification; and the film is a rare Hollywood analysis of class). The film opens with symbolic ominousness, as a wife waits at an airport for a husband who is lost somewhere in the sky, possibly in danger. Their reunion is sheer theatre, complete with audience and critics; and their first night together is rudely interrupted (witnessed) by the man whose intrusions will be central to the following plot, Tony. The film is full of this idea of theatre, that the lives we lead are mere crippling performances for a society full of begrudgery, indifference and contempt.
The important thing about the early scenes is how much Carter is to blame, how useless he is at marriage beyond the pleasureable physical duties. He is almost always away from his wife, or putting her off when he is there, delegating his responsibilities to his secretary so that he might as well be her lover - Carter's jealousy is really only a hypocritical smokescreen for guilt and neglect. He thinks throwing money and dresses at Daphne is enough - he is closer to August than he would care to admit.
His abrasive ego and violent clipped wit is hugely amusing and full of a brisk energy, but it consumes and negates all around him. He is an all-powerful man, a magician, the centre of public attention - he can make a legion of men do his bidding, and make hundreds more applaud him for doing so. This necessitates a regulated life, all the elements therein subservient to his will. So when his wife is possibly having an affair, he loses control. His sense of wholeness is split, but this is figured in the fragmentation of his wife (when he first suspects, she is reflected in a mirror; in the next sequence, she is divided into three by a double mirror), so bound up is she in his self image.
After a slow start, this is monstrously funny, and Carter's decline is dramatised in his change of comic registers, from verbal ('intellectual') comedy, to broad, 'vulgar' slapstick, from construction (of neat sentences etc.) to destruction, from activity to passivity. Decades before Cultural Studies came into being, Sturges links Dead White Male culture to masculinity and the arbitrary, brutal power of patriarchy is shown in all its unlovely violence.
The fantasy sequences are delirious, wicked, frightening and plausible (with disorientating zooms into Carter's eye reminiscent of VERTIGO)., and a thrill to see in a 40s Hollywood film, but Sturges is well aware that the pleasure we get from Carter murdering Daphne (explicitely eroticised) is very real, a release of what we (men anyway) feel but would never admit. In this way, YOURS is a forerunner of PEEPING TOM.
Although this is definitely the work of a misanthropist, there are glimmers of humanity, especially Sweeney the detective, whose loneliness is genuinely moving; he is the only character for whom music actually enriches. It is odd that a late 40s American film featuring detectives should have that figure as a receptacle of hope and humanity, and the man of culture, breeding and nobility the noir hero.
There are some unexpectedly delightful bits of irrelevant business, such as Daphne and August dropping things from the balcony on an old dowager. Sturges' use of space and architecture to dramatise emotion is once again masterly and Antonionian - the whole final third is a superb depiction of domestic alienation, Carter's ignorance of his own home revealing about his marriage; when he goes to confront Tony, the corridor's geometry is a chilling vanishing point; his mute walk through Tony's room is like the perambulaitons of a ghost.
And then tosses stupid, ordinary humor all over it as if to say that this precious porcelain vase was created only to display a crude dirty joke on it.
And he has an amazing lack of ability to differentiate his levels of abstraction with different tones. Usually anyway.
In this case, he has three different levels. There's the level we start out with: the man, an emotional genius who comes to believe his wife is cheating on him.
Then we have a second level, literally what is going on in his mind while conducting. He is watched by an audience while we another audience watches the movie within. Three movies: he kills her and frames the lover, he forgives, he kills himself.
There is some distance between these two levels, The second is deftly choreographed to match the music being played while the story is imagined.
Then we have the third level. It is a comic layer over top of the other two. This is broadly comic, from a different world. It is differentiated a bit by comic music and odd sound effects. But not enough to work.
And you have to be really wanting to laugh to think this is amusing at all.
But the construction is so novel, so perfect, so transporting (despite the hammy acting) that we forgive it all. This is an important movie.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.