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Thursday, February 24, 2011

JEANNE EAGLES (1957)

Kim Novak is at her considerable worst in this hopeless, and hopelessly inaccurate, bio-pic about the short, unhappy, drug-addled life of cult actress Jeanne Eagles. Not that Kim’s alone in her misery, Jeff Chandler, Agnes Moorehead, and the rest of the cast all give booby prize-worthy perfs under George Sidney’s coarse megging. The whole film sinks like a stone, save for some stylish lensing from Robert Planck. It’s worth a chuckle to see a Hollywood sojourn where they stick Jeanne at the wrong studio with the wrong director in a film role she never shot, but when they end the film with her singing her way to immortality in some fictitious early Talkie called FOREVER YOUNG, you almost feel as sorry for Novak as you do for Eagles.


SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: For those who still believe that Alfred Hitchcock didn’t work well with actors, have a look at this film before watching Novak's next. That’d be, VERTIGO/’58.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The real Jeanne Eagles appeared in a few silent bits back in the ‘teens, but her work only survives in two of her three feature films. Her one silent with John Gilbert (helmed by Monta Bell), MAN, WOMAN AND SIN/’27 is hard to get hold of, but it does exist. Her two Talkies were each remade by Bette Davis, the lost one, JEALOUSY/’29 as DECEPTION/’46; and Eagles real claim to fame, THE LETTER/’29. Herbert Marshall, who played Bette Davis’s cuckold in the 1940 remake, plays the lover in ‘29. Naturally, this is more of a filmed play than the famous William Wyler version of 1940, but once you adjust to its stop-and-go rhythm and to the style of acting, it’s quite devastating. And Eagles was the real deal, an American Duse on heroin. Unforgettable. (NOTE - THE LETTER has just come out as a Warner Archive VOD or special order!)

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