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Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Very popular, sadly dated. Susan Hayward, something of a forgotten star these days, is considerably below her best in this bio-pic charting the rise & fall (and then medium rise) of alcoholic songstress Lillian Roth. The film gets by once Roth’s touches bottom and lands at Alcoholics Anonymous, where she finds sympathetic ‘sponsor’ Eddie Albert, a sweetheart AA guy laid low by his polio-induced limp. But the first two acts are painfully over-wrought, with Hayward delivering songs & heartache with a steely determination that would put The Little Engine That Could to shame. And look what she’s up against: Jo Van Fleet’s oddly crazed stage-mother; a handsome fiancĂ© who unexpectedly expires mid-song; then depression on the road eased when a nurse/companion suggests a bedtime booze tonic. Addiction, ho! This specialist also nudges our gal into a couple of mismatched affairs (one guy’s a lush; one’s a sadist). Yikes! Finally, attempted suicide, flatly staged like everything else under Daniel Mann’s stolid megging. Little helped by Arthur Arling’s lusterless b&w lensing and a near complete lack of period detail from the M-G-M art department. Many of these faults were simply mid-‘50s studio style, but they still stop things cold. So too Hayward’s bumpy lip-synching, even though she’s 'singing' to her own vocal tracks.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Hayward was far more yielding in much the same role in the low-budget SMASH-UP/’47 which also has Eddie Albert hanging around to pick up the leftovers. OR: Playing their own competitor that year, M-G-M had another ‘30s girl singer/guy with a limp bio-pic in LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME/’55. Director Charles Vidor struggles in CinemaScope, but Doris Day & James Cagney shine.

CONTEST: Though not playing the same role, Lillian Roth & Susan Hayward shared another title in productions done a decade apart. Name it to win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of your choosing.

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