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Saturday, January 7, 2017

WOMAN'S WORLD (1954)

No studio was more attached to the ‘Three Girls’ story arc then 20th/Fox. Add in Bausch & Lomb CinemaScope lenses, and it was a match made in WideScreen composition heaven. This iteration of the formula made three-in-a-row for director Jean Negulesco after HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE/’53 and THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN/’54, but a considerably less distinctive one minus the inadvertent Pop Art proclivities of MILLIONAIRE or the travelogue gush of FOUNTAIN.* Instead, car mogul Clifton Webb brings three top sales reps to New York to find a new General Manager. And it’s not just the men getting a lookover, so too the wives; measure up or muster out. As the title song has it, ‘It’s a woman’s world, but only because . . . it’s his.’ Yikes!* There’s confident Van Heflin & sexually aggressive consort Arlene Dahl; plain-spoken Mid-Western Cornel Wilde & loyal little grey wren June Allyson; or up-from-the-ranks dyspeptic Fred MacMurray & neglected wife Lauren Bacall going thru the motions. Structured in the manner of a whodunit, right down to a dining room denouement, the script leans toward the thuddingly obvious, Allyson & Dahl particularly over-doing things. But with so many character flaws & changing positions to get thru in 90 minutes, shortcuts are understandable; especially when they're passably entertaining. And it’s certainly fun watching Bacall sweep the board in class & presence. Famous for feline good looks, she’d just come back to the screen for MILLIONAIRE after a three year baby-break. Somehow, in the interim, she’d found acting chops and a kind of technique. A pro in the good sense.

DOUBLE-BILL: The ‘serious’ corporate boardroom drama in ‘54 was EXECUTIVE SUITE. No color, no CinemaScope, but a starry cast (including this film’s June Allyson) and the first in an unmatched string of 11 hits in 12 years for scripter Ernest Lehman.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Yes, sexual roles & politics were a different language in the mid-‘50s, but it’s still a shock to see not only how things were, but how much had been lost on this front since the 1930s & ‘40s.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Unlike the restored anamorphic dazzle on DVD for MILLIONAIRE and FOUNTAIN, WORLD comes in a merely acceptable, slightly drab ‘flat’ letterbox VOD edition.

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