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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A LIFE OF HER OWN (1950)

Lana Turner & Ray Milland star in this largely forgotten women’s drama that serves up that old standby: the single girl who comes to New York, finds a guy & career, but no happiness because Mr. Right is already married. But in 1950, films were trying to be ‘daring,’ ‘adult,’ so Lana’s character knows from the start that her guy is unavailable, and still gets to play sympathetic lead. Tag on a glamorous occupation (fashion model) and George Cukor’s smooth direction and you’ve got to wonder why this one doesn’t add up. Part of the trouble is that the role is outside Turner’s comfort range, being neither perky nor sultry, and equally outside her physical range. (Short neck, round face: next. Ava Gardner must have been busy elsewhere on the M-G-M lot.) A couple of undeveloped subplots look more promising, like the unexplored rapport between Turner & Louis Calhern who plays pal to everyone. Asexual? Gay? Cukor also gets some riveting tragic vibes out of Margaret Phillips as Milland’s wife & from Ann Dvorak as a model whose future is all used up. All topped off with a fascinating, if inexplicable turn from Barry Sullivan as a snide angel-of-death type. What an odd concoction hides in plain sight here.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Check out Lana’s smooth dancing partner at her birthday party for Milland. It’s Hermes Pan, Fred Astaire’s assistant. The guy who danced as Ginger, Rita or Cyd when those classic routines were being worked up.

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