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Saturday, October 30, 2010

EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE (1949)

This glamorous sudser from M-G-M tries ever-so hard to be daring & adult in the smart post-war manner, but it’s dramatically inert. It’s certainly filled with yummy-looking people making misery for each other; just not enough. Barbara Stanwyck is warily married to darkling James Mason who can’t quit gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous Ava Gardner. (She’s bad bad bad. That’s what he likes likes likes.) On a lower end of the social scale, fashion-shop model Cyd Charisse has grown up with a big crush on government man Van Heflin, but he falls big-time for Babs. (Van’s also lower on the gorgeous scale so he gets heaps of charm & sympathy.) And look!, there’s Nancy Davis. In this early role, the future Mrs. Ronald Reagan throws a Texas-themed party in her NYC duplex and proffers wifely advise. (Confidentially, she stinks.) Marcia Davenport’s big bestseller must have been more fun than this, but Mervyn Leroy megs like he’s driving Dad’s expensive car. And they barely give Manhattan’s West Side three minutes of screen time. Each second excruciatingly condescending.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Another 1949 pic, LETTER TO THREE WIVES, did this sort of marital fandango with wit, style & a great gimmick.

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