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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

RUBY GENTRY (1952)

Actress Jennifer Jones & helmer King Vidor had been down this road before in DUEL IN THE SUN.’46. Here’s the chamber version, in b&w and running a much shorter 80 minutes. It’s the old story of the sexy girl who loses her man to a safer, saner, better-connected society gal. She marries on the rebound, becomes a rich widow and takes her revenge. Vidor, a brilliant, but uneven director, pushes everything so hard that the film is both compelling and ridiculous. Jones, a decade too old for her role, doesn’t come off as a wild spirit, dying to be tamed by the right man, but as borderline psychotic. A shame, because she’s unusually well matched with a young Charlton Heston whose face hadn’t yet turned to granite. The best scene shows them driving recklessly into the surf, too filled with each other to care. (It’s a steal from Vidor’s little seen masterpiece, THE STRANGER’S RETURN/’33, where Miriam Hopkins & Franchot Tone drive straight into a field of wheat.) But Jones & company soon return to their neurotic ways as the story wends its way toward an unearned tragic finish.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Jennifer Jones is an acquired taste not everyone acquires. But she was far better in her other 1952 film, William Wyler's superb Dreiser adaptation CARRIE with Laurence Olivier in magnificent form, and fine tough support from Miriam Hopkins of STRANGER'S RETURN.

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