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]
THE FURIES (Mann, 1950) - This is a muddled film, with three plots more or less following each other (roughly one per man in Vance’s life), but Stanwyck just owns it, whether it’s seducing a man her father hates, breaking bread with her Mexican childhood friend or plotting her revenge. Or - in a really rather shocking moment - mutilating the woman who wants to separate her from the real love of her life, the “Furies” of the title. It’s too bad Wendell Corey can’t really measure up to her, making the disappointing ending feel even more contrived and false - you can imagine Barbara falling for him, sure (she was often falling for weaker man, perhaps for lack of stronger ones), but seeing her submit to him feels profoundly wrong. Walter Huston is a better foil for her, and their relationship is fascinating, creepy and incestuous and competitive. Add Mann’s stark visuals, and you get a film that’s remarkable despite its flaws.
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.