Wednesday, September 15, 2010

East Side West Side 1949

Sometimes I have an urge to watch a “women’s movie“. I don’t know what it is or why but sometimes this feeling comes over me, so the other night I took a look at Mervyn LeRoy’s girlie movie East Side West Side made at M.G.M. in 1949, but with one toe dipping into the new decade to come and with a cast that caught my eye. Upper class Barbara Stanwyck plays married to suave but cheating husband James Mason who is playing around with probably the most beautiful actress in the history of movies Ava Gardner, so you can’t blame him, but I do. Ava looks fantastic in her late 40’s do and wears Helen Rose’s beautiful clothes beautifully. Babs also looks swell and wears her weary but brave wife look very well, and also looks great in her Helen Rose casual frocks and evening wear. Everyone wanders about in really big over decorated apartments with great views of the East River and there is really not much to this glamorous and good looking almost B movie. The over stuffed plot is simple: Mason is a heel, Babs is brave, Ava is gorgeous and into this pot of stew comes Cyd Charisse as a fashion model who Mason hits on at some ritzy nightclub while Babs is home alone with a good book. Cyd knows Babs from the exclusive dress salon she works at and feels bad that Mason is hitting on every young pretty thing in the club. And guess what? Also at the club is Ava just back in town and she’s acting all nasty and bitchy to Cyd because she thinks that Cyd is Mason new tootsie and is jealous of her. Ava is there with her new beau who is rich and is also jealous because Ava is flirting with Mason. So the guy punches Mason hard and knocks him out when he sees Ava coming on to him. The reporters and photographers are all over him and Cyd comes to his rescue and takes James home to her tenement apartment she shares with her grandmother who does not care for what is going on at all. In the morning after he sobers up, he goes back home to Babs where he tells her the story of the night before, which is the truth according to him. He leaves out the part of running into his old girlfriend Ava at the club, which Stanwyck finds out about from the morning tabloids. As usual she forgives him. Also on hand is Van Heflin back from Europe where he reported on the war and it’s aftermath. Heflin grew up with Cyd in the old neighborhood, and was once a policeman. He’s not interested in Cyd in a romantic way. He’s way too old for her, but Cyd has a silly crush on him which happily she grows out of in the first hour of the film, because the minute Van lays eyes on Stanwyck he’s hooked, and big time in love. But of course Babs won’t have anything to do with him that way, and just wants to be friends. She’s still in love with her cheating husband who is still drawn to Ava. Also in the cast is Gale Sondergaard who plays Stanwyck’s mom who was once big Broadway star, and even though she’s only 55 in the movie she acts like she’s 70. In real life she was only 8 years older than Stanwyck who was 42 at the time, and ten years too old for the role, but never mind that. Also in a tiny role is Nancy Davis before she met Ronnie and you know the rest of that story. She’s actually ok in her small role as a friend of Barbara’s and quite attractive, but I still hate her guts. Also of note was a tall blonde drink of water named Beverly Michaels who plays one tough babe and gives out with a lot of trouble and in a bit part before he hit it big on I Love Lucy William Frawley as a friendly bartender. My favorite scene comes late in the film when Mason visits with Gale late one night to ask her to beg Stanwyck not to leave him, and Gale tells Mason how much she despises him, always has, and hopes that Stanwyck does leave him. Ouch that hurt, and that look on Mason‘s face, wonderful. There is also a murder late in the film, which Van solves in about 2 minutes. It took me one minute but whose counting when one is having such a good time. The movie is based on a novel by Marcia Davenport who was quite popular in the 40’s for her romantic novels and since the movie comes from M.G.M. it has lush art direction and cinematography, and carefully done process shots of New York City in the 1940’s as the cast ride about in cars and taxi’s. Listen this is far from a great movie, I never said it was, but it does offer an easy time of it with some wonderful movie stars doing what they do best.


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