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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR (1952)

An uncommonly interesting idea gets wasted in this halfhearted ‘Problem Pic’ on alcoholism. A shame, since the basic idea of an AA guy getting emotionally involved on a mentoring assignment, then cheating on his wife and his sobriety is a good one. We see how finding someone who understands what he’s going thru in a way his ‘normal’ wife never could might tempt him. And Ray Milland is particularly good as the sober, but weakening ad exec, almost happily married with kids after surviving some epic benders, like a best case follow-up to his character in THE LOST WEEKEND/’45. Joan Fontaine is lightly deglamorized as the struggling actress Milland helps get off the bottle, but poor Teresa Wright has little to do but be bland, pregnant & loyal as the wife & mother. An unfocused script with an abrupt ending is the main problem here, but director George Stevens, just off A PLACE IN THE SUN/’51, hardly helps matters. He seems to have lost all touch with a conversational tone, overcompensating the film’s modest requirements with odd, jarring edits & pointlessly arty dissolves. Meantime, the plot advances by desperation, like having a lovers’ rendezvous in the Egyptian wing of the museum interrupted when Milland’s kid shows up with his school class. All the while, composer Victor Young mercilessly plugs his big, fat, slushy romantic tune, no doubt, hoping for a hit record.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: That B’way production Fontaine supposedly stars in might be AIDA @ the Old Met. Did theatrical dramas really look anything like this in the ‘50s?

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: While not the landmark film once thought, THE LOST WEEKEND (see above) has lots of great, seedy NYC atmosphere to go along with Milland’s still impressive drunk act.

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