Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Forgotten Films: Born To Be Bad

Ed here: this is from a long poset on TM Movie Morlocks about new DVDS available from the Warner Home Library.

Since Robert Ryan is one of my five favorite actors I've always enjoyed this film.  He's great and so is lovely Joan Fontaine as a truly nasty lady.

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Nicholas Ray shot what was then titled Bed of Roses in 35 days, from June 20th to July 30th of 1949. It was a project that the head of RKO, Howard Hughes, had indefinitely 

postponed in 1948, one of the provocations that caused the production head Dore Schary to quit. It had gone through seven screenwriters and five directors before Ray took over, with Joan Fontaine in the lead role. Even Fontaine was wary, with her husband William Dozier writing to Hughes, “I’m afraid Joan’s enthusiasm for this project has not heightened any with the passage of time.” It was an adaptation of the 1928 novel All Kneeling by Anne Parrish, divulging the seedy story of Christabel Caine (Fontaine), a manipulative ladder-climber eager to seduce every man she meets and then marry the one with the most money. Her target is Curtis Carey (Zachary Scott), the scion of a wealthy family already engaged to Donna (Joan Leslie), the whip-smart assistant to Christabel’s Uncle John, a publisher. Christabel also has the acidically funny Nick (Robert Ryan) on a string, who is one of John’s up and coming authors. Despite all the studio snags, Ray orchestrates a deliciously cynical melodrama of sexual power plays. It is a movie of lush upper class interiors, and Ryan has the characters constantly shifting in the frame, as seen in the bravura opening sequence, in which Donna is preparing a dinner party. Donna is a blur of preparatory focus, walking in and out of rooms while Ray returns to a fixed shot of the hallway. Eventually Donna is speedwalking toward the camera, and trips to the floor over a suitcase inconveniently placed in the hall. It is the introduction of Christabel, who is sitting patiently in a room to the right. In this clever bit of choreography, Christabel is visualized as a roadblock to Donna’s best-laid plans.
Ray is aided by richly layered performances from Fontaine and Ryan. Fontaine uses a girlish hair-flipping exterior to hide her designs, letting diabolical smiles slip out once the other characters leave the frame. Ryan is a wisecracking rogue who sees through Fontaine’s exterior, describing her dual personality to her face, and yet unable to tear himself away from her. In a damning kiss off at one of her ballroom parties, following her marriage to Curtis, Ryan tells her, “I love you so much I wish I liked you.” And yet a few scenes later he’s back in her arms, ready and willing to believe her latest bedside conversion.


pattinase (abbott) said...

And the other four?

Ed Gorman said...

Born Ti Be Bad makes the fourth film from the Warner Archives, Patti. The others are

Five Man Army
The Wrath of God (Mitchum-but for me the Jack Higgins novel is better than the movie)
Young Cassidy-John Huston's labored story of W.B. Yates

Todd Mason said...

But the other four favorite actors, Ed?

Ed Gorman said...

Aw God Todd. :) Depends on the day and time but--

James Mason
Mary Astor
Robert Duvall
Teresa Wright

I base this on range and screen years.

Darryl Fedrick said...

The actress photo looks so cute, young and charming. Nice article.