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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

FROM THE TERRACE (1960)


In this plush pic, producer/director Mark Robson tried to refashion John O’Hara’s churning novel into a kind of Main Line Philadelphia PEYTON PLACE, his big hit from ‘57. The backdrop of mansions, old money vs new money, big business & upper-crust trysts gives Robson fresh areas of hypocrisy & scandal to chart, and the rapidly eroding film censorship code let him push the sexual envelop a little. He even used a writer who was fresh off a Hitchcock hit, just as he had with PEYTON PLACE: John Michael Hayes there; Ernest Lehman here. But the gambit doesn’t come off since O’Hara’s characters are flat stereotypes and the plot misses the juicy revelations & turnarounds that still make PEYTON PLACE so darn watchable. Paul Newman should be just right as the striving WWII vet who finds financial success an empty chalice, but he slums thru his role along with the starry A-list cast. Only Myrna Loy & Leon Ames, as Newman’s mismatched parents, break thru, but the film dumps them after the first act.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Ernest Lehman also wrote EXECUTIVE SUITE/’54 where half a dozen interlocking stories bubble along as its corporate/sex drama plays out. Better, and half an hour shorter!

READ ALL ABOUT IT: O’Hara’s blustery novels are out of fashion these days, but his Hollywood novella NATICA JACKSON is one of the great movie books. Alas, the fine Michelle Pfeiffer/Hector Elizando PBS adaptation from 1987 is only available in a mutilated edition.

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