Why Are Some Classics Like Walking A Plank?
Started to watch Leave Her To Heaven last week, and quit after forty minutes. I went in with dread, knowing too well what an unpleasant show this is. Fox had an enormous hit in 1945 because Leave Her To Heaven did things no movie had so far dared. It was a sick sex story where at-peak Gene Tierney let a child drown and then plunged off stair steps to abort another one, hapless husband Cornel Wilde framed for murder in her wake. All of ordeal is bathed in Technicolor and lovely settings we could hope to live in, but not under such disagreeable circumstance as laid forth here. Leave Her To Heaven shocked viewers in similar way to The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek --- both seemed to flaunt proprieties that censorship then-enforced, and both profited richly from the affront. I suspect Leave Her To Heaven got at a lot of people where they lived, being vivid remind that a crazy person can do much damage, but a beautiful crazy person can leave many times the wreckage because besotted partners will always give her another chance. A Gene Tierney, even with all screws loose, never runs out of Cornel Wildes to misguide, men being the eager victims they are. For all of warning bells women got from movies where one allies with a scoundrel or wife killer, Leave Her To Heaven gave dire as warning to unwary men subject to snare by dangerous females. Difference is men being so much more helpless in these situations. Maybe Heaven as frightful object lesson is what scares me off it.
Leave Her To Heaven was a big gorilla of 16mm collectibles, an IB Technicolor print the all-time "get" as it seemed a loveliest showcase of gone forever dye-transfer.
Mildred Pierce was yesterday's pick, again with trepidation. This one is many dynamic things, but nasty and cruel in particulars. I found myself clinging this time to Steiner's music, the Curtiz directorial swoop, and Jack Carson. Agree too with consensus of viewers, Veda is a dreadful child and worse adult. Her abusing Mildred, over and over, pains me to point where, if in WB or Curtiz mood, I'll opt even for Passage To Marseille over Mildred Pierce. What drew me was word that Criterion had improved on the HD transfer Warner leased them, and yes, shadows are blackened and smoke floats on an almost third dimension. Through this all, there was still Veda. I read that Ann Sheridan turned down Mildred Pierce in part because "the kid was a horror." Many tested for the Veda part. Shirley Temple wanted it badly, and effective as Ann Blyth would ultimately be, I'd like to have seen what Shirley, who was seriously considered, might have done with it. What a shock that reverse in persona would have been. Mildred Pierce is pitiless for giving no relief to the title character's ordeal, Jack Carson as Wally Fay a lifeline for me and humorous escort through an otherwise harsh ride. Then too there is Eve Arden, so thank Heaven for both. Leave Her To Heaven, on the other hand, had no one among cast/characters to leaven blows (and it's not that I demand "comedy relief" in all films, but wit is appreciated, and always there in the best of them). Curtiz and producer Jerry Wald likely saw Carson and Arden as very necessary antidote to Mildred/Crawford's suffering. Question just occurs: Is Crawford harder to take for some because she's always so serious? I'm satisfied
Another that bummed me was The Breaking Point, also from Curtiz out of Warners. Much as I like John Garfield, for me he's an eight-ball actor, as in always behind it. There are ever-more pianos lowering over his head, only question being when the rope will snap. What was it about