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Friday, March 3, 2017

DESIRE ME (1947)

This infamously troubled production, a ‘dark-and-stormy-night’ romancer about a war widow who becomes involved with her late husband’s prisoner-of-war buddy, is a brooding, choppy mess . . . and probably the best of Greer Garson’s post-WWII pics. With four uncredited directors* (George Cukor; Jack Conway; Mervyn LeRoy; Victor Saville), major reshoots and a third-wheel leading man whose character changed with every rewrite (he’s as variable as the wind), it grows in interest not in spite of flaws, but because of them. (Though a cobbled ending comes off as creative surrender.) But get past an unfortunate prologue, and you’ll hit on something intriguingly (D.H.) Lawrencian, much abetted by Joseph Ruttenberg’s doom-and-gloom drenched lensing which only heightens the unexpectedly dark, richly-textured sea-coast production design. That’s where prison survivor John Hart comes on the scene, hoping to step into the shoes of his dead army pal Robert Mitchum with the widow Garson. She’s been holding out for Mitchum's return, but now thinks she’s able to move on. But is she? What if Mitchum isn’t dead? And what does Hart know? None of these dramatic hurdles are conquered in the unfocused script, but roll with the punches and something grown up & unexpectedly neurotic/erotic emerges from the shattered pieces; an honorable failure not to be despised.

LINK/ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *Also no musical credit. But it's long-time M-G-M composer/arranger Herbert Stothart, never much of a tunesmith, but he does rather well here, getting a lot out of Charles Trenet’s ‘Vous Qui Passez Sans Me Voir’ which is also uncredited. You’ll instantly recognize it in this LINK to Jean Sablon’s classic recording. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHYC6SYI-9Q

DOUBLE-BILL: The story of two POW pals, one presumed dead, the other moving in on the ‘widow’ is handled with typically striking late-silent visual style in Joe May’s HOMECOMING/’28 with a great perf from Lars Hanson (Lillian Gish’s co-star in THE WIND/’28). OR: Fresh from his B’way breakthru in DARK OF THE MOON, this film's darkly compelling John Hart never recovered in Hollywood from a flop debut. But check him out in Anthony Mann’s French Revolution B-pic thriller REIGN OF TERROR/’49 (aka THE BLACK BOOK).

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