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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW (1956) / ALL I DESIRE (1953)

Producer Ross Hunter and director Douglas Sirk starred Barbara Stanwyck in two of their signature melodramas. And if the first, ALL I DESIRE, is hobbled by a fudged story element, THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW is prime Sirk, a key work that should be as well known as the TechniColor masterpieces that surround it. It’s a women’s picture, as the genre used to be called, but with a male in the central spot. That’d be Fred MacMurray, family man with a lovely wife (Joan Bennett), three great kids, nice home, thriving business, yet always Fifth Wheel at home. Mid-Life crisis, Ho! Enter old flame, dynamic NYC businesswoman Barbara Stanwyck. He falls hard; she thinks about it; wife hasn’t a clue, just a knowing confidence & perfect contentment; kids think they know the score. Parsing the emotional/psychological landscape thru a perfect control of the mise-en-scène, Sirk, working with D.P. Russell Metty, is ever the master, with half-answers and half-resolutions stunningly realized.

If only the same could be said of ALL I DESIRE, which is paired with it on a Stanwyck DVD Collection. Here, Babs is having the Mid-Life crisis, going to her old hometown after a dozen years on the stage. Turns out, she left before a scandal broke involving loyal hubby Richard Carlson & impulsive lover Lyle Bettger. But with no chemistry between these three, it’s hard to care. Nothing much between her and the three kids she left behind, either. But the deal killer is with the youngest kid, nicely played by young Billy Ray. Mom’s a stranger to him, but not her old secret lover, Bettger. He’s like a second father. DING-DING-DING!! Right!, that’s the missing link. Bettger's the father! Or should be for the sake of the narrative. The whole story clicks into place if Bettger was the kid’s secret father. And cuckold Carlson knew it, but raised the kid as his own, anyway. Alas, someone (censors?, Universal execs?, Stanwyck?) nixed the idea . . . and killed the film.

DOUBLE-BILL: Casting Fred MacMurray as the unfaithful exec in Billy Wilder’s THE APARTMENT/’60 seemed to come out of the blue. More likely, it came out of THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW.

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