For about five minutes in the middle of its last act, this turgid meller about an ambitious, hard-luck actor is jolted to life by an abruptly terminated tv audition. It seems our anti-hero actor (glowering Anthony Franciosa) is perfect for the job, but out of luck because of his past association with a Leftie Off-Off B’way theatrical company and its card-carrying Commie honcho Dean Martin. Holy Smokes! A Pinko Dino! It may represent the earliest sympathetic take on ‘50s McCarthy Witch Hunt Blacklisting victims in film. So, its not a complete surprise to discover real-life Blacklisted scripter Dalton Trumbo having an uncredited hand in the screenplay. If only the rest of the film held equal interest. Instead, we get Franciosa as a talented actor who misses his chances with too much drive & a hangdog expression; Dino selling out for the Hollywood life; Shirley MacLaine grabbing at boys & booze 'cause her B’way producer dad won’t give her attention; and that nice lady in the theatrical office, Carolyn Jones, waiting for Franciosa to notice her between those lousy road tours she booked him into. All while the passing years are ticked off in every other scene with either an anniversary to celebrate or a pregnancy to complicate matters. Prolific B’way director Joseph Anthony may have smiled knowingly at the soapy plot turns, but, to his credit, he’s become far more comfortable as moviemaker since his stiff early gigs on THE RAINMAKER/’56 and THE MATCHMAKER/58.
DOUBLE-BILL: Backstage mellers were all the rage in the late ‘50s. With STAGE STRUCK/’58 (a botched remake of MORNING GLORY/’33) and a mishandled MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR/’58 just two of the more prominent examples.