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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

THE GODDESS (1958)

It’s good to know that before all the posthumous blather about the life & career of Marilyn Monroe, there was a thriving industry of preposthumous blather. And God knows, Paddy Chayefsky was a writer with the ego & blather to take on the burgeoning legend of his Marilyn Monroe-like star. (Make that anti-legend.) And, speaking of legends, here’s Kim Stanley, in her film debut, emoting to a fare-the-well as the troubled star. (Her early scenes are eerily like early Bette Davis . . . as played by late Bette Davis.) Indeed, most of the cast seem to have caught the Actors’ Studio bug from Stanley, riding an emotional roller-coaster like some vagabond stock company specializing in unproduced Tennessee Williams discards. Lloyd Bridges, Steven Hill, Joan Copeland & Betty Lou Holland, all take it on the chin; only Elizabeth Wilson finds something human-scaled as the star’s latter confidant. Poor John Cromwell, who hadn’t made a film since Howard Hughes micro-managed his remake of THE RACKET/’51, gets some nice Southern atmosphere in the opening sections (kudos to lenser Arthur Ornitz in his Stateside debut), but he doesn’t stand a chance against this gang of paid-up Method actors. And, how pleased they all seem to be with themselves, digging deeply into Paddy Chayefsky’s pretentious script to expose psychological shallows savvier actors would have left buried. But the film is more than just an embarrassment, it’s an indictment. Not of Hollywood, Southern Fried culture or even Marilyn Monroe, but as a mirror on its makers. The only honestly simple thing in the film is Virgil Thompson’s keening score, but halfway thru it seems to drift off, unable to add anything to the dramatic banalities.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: With only five or six film credits in a career lasting decades, Kim Stanley is an acting legend of tantalizing scarcity, built on lacunae. She really is scary good in SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON/’64 (and, of course, charming as the adult ‘Scout,’ narrating TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD/’‘62. But, as with Ms. Monroe, does anything live up to the myth?

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