Toward the end of his life, F. Scott Fitzgerald is writing for Hollywood studios to be able to afford the cost of an asylum for his wife. He is also struggling against alcoholism. Into his l... Read allToward the end of his life, F. Scott Fitzgerald is writing for Hollywood studios to be able to afford the cost of an asylum for his wife. He is also struggling against alcoholism. Into his life comes the famous gossip columnist.Toward the end of his life, F. Scott Fitzgerald is writing for Hollywood studios to be able to afford the cost of an asylum for his wife. He is also struggling against alcoholism. Into his life comes the famous gossip columnist.
When I heard that the film was based on the life of Fitzgerald, I assumed that it would be about his wild and tempestuous life with Zelda during the twenties and early thirties. Instead, it concentrates on the last few years of his life, the period 1937 to 1940, and his relationship with his mistress, the journalist and gossip columnist Sheilah Graham. Indeed, Zelda does not appear in the film, although she is referred to. By 1937 Zelda was suffering from mental illness and was confined to a psychiatric hospital, but she and Scott were still married. Indeed, the two were never to divorce, and she legally remained his wife until his death.
The main problem with the film is that of miscasting. Gregory Peck's most frequent screen image was that of an authoritative, rational and gentlemanly figure, so he does not really seem a natural choice to play a notorious hell-raiser like Fitzgerald. Peck occasionally succeeded in his efforts to break away from his normal persona, as in "Duel in the Sun", "The Boys from Brazil" or "Moby Dick" in which he made a notable Captain Ahab, but in several other films attempts to cast him against type fell flat. A good example is "Macarthur" from the latter part of his career, in which he never succeeded in capturing General Macarthur's aggressive, combative personality. In the initial part of this film Peck portrays Fitzgerald as yet another quiet, charming gentleman, and his portrayal is certainly convincing, although I did find myself wondering how close it was to the real Scott Fitzgerald. His past struggles against alcoholism are referred to, but for a while it seems as though he has conquered his addiction. Midway through the film, however, Fitzgerald falls off the wagon after he is sacked from his job as a Hollywood scriptwriter, and Peck is much less convincing as a violent, abusive drunk than he is as a gentlemanly intellectual.
For a film made in the 1950s, with the Production Code still in force, this one is remarkably sympathetic in its treatment of adultery. Sheilah Graham is very much the heroine of the film, not its villain. (That is perhaps not surprising given that the film was based on her own memoirs. Fitzgerald had died in 1940 but Graham was still very much alive in 1959). She is portrayed as a kindly and understanding lover, patiently trying to help Scott deal with his problems, rather than as the heartless seductress which during this period was the standard cinematic image of women sexually involved with another woman's husband. Deborah Kerr was one of the screen's most famous "good girls", although she also had the ability to portray characters who hid passionate natures beneath a quiet, reserved surface, such as Karen, the adulterous Army wife in "From Here to Eternity", the troubled Sister Clodagh in "Black Narcissus", the haunted governess in "The Innocents" or another haunted governess, Miss Madrigal in "The Chalk Garden", in that case haunted by guilt rather than by anything supernatural. In "Beloved Infidel", however, Kerr seemed unable to draw upon this ability, and her Sheilah comes across as a character who is all surface with nothing much going on underneath. Kerr also fails to make the most of another aspect of her character, the toughness and determination which enabled her to rise from poverty in Britain to become one of the most famous women in America.
There are some good things about this film- the script is a good one and it is attractively photographed. For a film of its period it has touches of originality, breaking away from the traditional "eternal triangle" concept of marital infidelity, a triangle composed of a weak, erring husband, a saintly, long-suffering wife and a wicked other woman. (This concept was not confined to the fifties, or even to the Production Code era; "Fatal Attraction" is a good example from the late eighties, and examples can still be found today). I felt, however, that it might have been better had alternative actors been found for the two leading roles. 6/10
- Jun 6, 2013