The impact of Clift’s performance in The Search is unmistakable. Fashion photographer and portraitist Richard Avedon remembered the first time he saw the film: “The minute Monty came on the screen I cried.” Trying to account for this reaction, Avedon (himself familiar with the ways beauty can be produced) offered possible reasons—“because he was so realistic and honest and I was deeply touched”—and then settled on acting. “He seems to be creating a new kind of acting—almost documentary in approach. It has the style of reportage.” [x]
Released Jan. 18, 1950: THE FILE ON THELMA JORDAN, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey, and Paul Kelly. Directed by Robert Siodmak (The Dark Mirror, Cry of the City, Criss Cross). Wendell Corey is a small-town assistant district attorney who is unhappy in his marriage and becomes romantically involved with Barbara Stanwyck, who is visiting her ailing aunt (Gertrude Hoffman). The first half of the film is devoted to their passionate secret romance, but things become desperate when Hoffman is murdered during an apparent burglary and Stanwyck is suspected of the crime. To complicate matters, it seems she has a shadowy accomplice (Richard Rober) who is indirectly involved, but cannot be found by police. This is a respectable noir from Robert Siodmak, one of the pre-eminent directors of classic noir films, with an interesting, albeit rather unoriginal, story and a strong performance by Stanwyck. Although Corey is not one of Hollywod’s most outwardly charismatic actors, he generates enough chemistry with Stanwyck to propel the story and keep the viewer involved. Corey is actually quite funny and charming in the opening scene in which his character is falling-down drunk. Unfortunately, the script tries very hard to make Stanwyck a sympathetic con artist with a heart, giving us a watered-down femme fatale, which takes much of the sting out of the story. Even her speech to Corey at the end of the film feels more like syrupy melodrama than noir. But in spite of this, Stanwyck is a delight to watch and there are enough twists and turns in the plot to make this film worth viewing. We give The File on Thelma Jordan 3.5 out of 5 fedoras.
Released January 14, 1949: THE ACCUSED, starring Loretta
Young, Robert Cummings, and
Wendell Corey. Directed by William
Dieterle (Rope of Sand, Dark City,
The Turning Point). Loretta Young is a bookish university
professor who meets with one of her less studious pupils (Douglas Dick) after
school to discuss his academic future.
Dick offers to drive her home, but instead, takes her to a secluded
cliff high above the ocean and tries to force himself on her. In the struggle, Young clubs Dick over the
head with a heavy object and kills him.
Distraught, she arranges the scene to make it look like Dick slipped off
the cliff, hit his head on the rocks below, and drowned, and then makes her way
home on foot. The next day, Dick’s
family guardian (Robert Cummings)
shows up on Young’s doorstep, and not realizing Dick has been killed, wants to
discuss Dick’s academic status. Cummings
is immediately attracted to Young and pretty soon all he’s interested in is
spending as much time as possible with her.
Meanwhile, much to Young’s relief, Dick’s death is ruled accidental,
however, police detective Wendell Corey is convinced foul play was involved,
and continues to doggedly pursue the case. This film has some intriguing
moments, but unfortunately, lacks any real suspense. Even though Corey’s net draws tighter and
tighter around Young, the audience knows all along she has a justifiable
explanation for her actions. Not only
that, she has Cummings in her corner, who happens to be an adept attorney, and
even though he himself comes to suspect Young of murder, falls completely head
over heels for her and will do anything to protect her. The film’s most engaging scenes are those in
which Corey analyzes physical evidence or questions Young, but the remainder of
the film is primarily devoted to the growing feelings of love between Cummings
and Young, which is a rather ho-hum affair.
Young’s performance alternates between self-assured professor and helpless
damsel in distress on the verge of a fainting spell - an antiquated female
stereotype that makes this film feel rather outdated, even by classic film
standards. On the other hand, Wendell
Corey puts in a charmingly understated performance as an astute detective with
a heart. The complete opposite of the
stereotypical hard-boiled brute, he is instantly likable and a joy to watch. The
Accused is not a bad film, it’s just not a particularly interesting one. The lack of meaningful suspense, slow pacing,
and archaic portrayal of women don’t leave much for viewers to savor. We give The
Accused 2 out of 5 fedoras.