Saturday, December 04, 2010

Clash By Night 1952

Based on a failed play by Clifford Odets (it closed on Broadway in the early 40’s after only 49 performances), it was still somehow turned into a pretty good film in 1952 with direction by Fritz Lang. The play starred Tallulah Bankhead as nervy gritty down on her heels and luck Mae Doyle and in the movie the part is played by the much better suited Barbara Stanwyck who by the way is terrific, but then again when wasn‘t she terrific. From the first shot of Mae lugging a heavy suitcase up an early morning Monterey street you know that this is one tough broad, and in case that didn’t immediately hit you, Stanwyck who is tired of all the lugging stops in a local bar for a quick Brandy. “Better make that a whiskey” the bartender tells her, and she downs it in one gulp. That’s my Babs. One of the patrons in the bar remarks about her drinking so early in the morning “only when I have a cold” Stanwyck snaps back. In town after a 10 year stint of being knocked around and about by life she looks up her hunky brother played by the hunky and handsome Keith Andes. Their house Stanwyck says looks much smaller than she remembers it, and Keith tells her it’s big enough. That’s the kind of tough smart banter that goes back and forth in this tragedy in the making. Also along for the ride is Keith’s cannery girl friend Marilyn Monroe on the cusp of everlasting superstardom. She’s beautiful and fresh, and it’s always startling to see the young Marilyn, it shakes you up, because she’s become such an icon, almost dreamlike, that you wonder did she ever really exist or is she just a Warhol silkscreen? So there’s plenty of eye candy for everyone, Keith has several scenes shirtless, and Monroe is well Monroe, which should be more than enough for anyone. Stanwyck’s Mae is tough, wounded and soiled but inside there’s a gooey soft spot, which she gives to the big lovable clumsy kind fisherman, played by the very good Paul Douglas. They marry, but into the mix is Robert Ryan who is Paul‘s friend, (Ryan was also in the original play but had the role of the brother) who is a misogynist, racist and semi psychopath who works as a movie projectionist (nice touch Fritz). Ryan is mean but attractive in a bad sort of way, and is on the make big time for Stanwyck, who acts like she can’t stand him.  Soon Douglas and Stanwyck have a little baby girl named Gloria, but its very hot outside and Stanwyck starts to come apart from the heat and repressed sexual feelings that she’s feeling for psycho Ryan. That’s all the plot you’re getting from me, after all this is not IMDB. I will say that the ending is a little too uplifting for what I was expecting, and it’s probably due to it being uptight 1952 and all that. But still and all this is tough and tangy Hollywood Lang, with lots of symbolic shots of crashing waves, sunsets, and birds, and it really helps to have the great cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca aboard who did the nice blending of actual location work with studio sets.


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