Thursday, November 07, 2013

A Life Of Her Own. 1950

A great title for a mediocre film. Lana Turner who was pushing the sunny side of 30 when she made this movie plays a fresh-faced midwestern hick who as the movie opens is boarding a train to New York City to make her mark as a model. Ok sure we immediately realize that Lana is no fresh face young thing and in real time her model days would be long gone. However this is Hollywood so Lana immediately lands a gig with a modeling agency run by Tom Ewell and in a fast montage she is on the covers of every magazine in the world and is the toast of the city. On her way up she meets some high society low-life’s including a sleazy lounge lizard played well by Barry Sulliavan, a high priced lawyer played by Louis Calhern and a sad aging model who is hitting rock bottom and is played by the wonderful Ann Dvorak. Ann is on screen for too short a time but when she is on,  the movie comes alive, there’s a jolt of energy because of her, but when she’s gone the movie become dull and predictable. Lana also meets the wooden Ray Milland who plays a visiting owner of a mine out in Wyoming or some place like it. Ray is married but he starts a long-term affair with Lana who ­knows very well that he’s hitched, and what’s worse he’s hitched to a woman in a wheelchair who found herself sitting in it due to a car accident caused by him. There’s plenty of guilt on his part but this doesn’t stop him from playing house with Lana. This is one of those women’s movies that try to have it both ways. It has a lightweight “feminist” streak running thorough it, but at the same time it seems to be saying in typical 50’s rhetoric that a woman no matter how talented or successful she may be is still incomplete without a man in her life even if that man is a weak morally compromised Ray Milland. Directed by the great director George Cukor who was looked down in Hollywood as just a woman’s director (code for gay) the film is without his usual style or flair, he just doesn’t seem that interested in the story. The film does have the usual M.G.M. gloss along with some nice 50’s touches, smoky piano bars, huge apartments renting for $250.00 a month and residential hotels just for women. The cast is full of wonderful actors and character players including Jean Hagen who is wasted in a small washed out role as a model friend of Lana’s.  Also in bits and piece parts are Phyllis Kirk, Percy Helton, Whit Bissell and if you don’t blink the great Kathleen Freeman as an uncredited telephone operator, Beverly Garland as a party guest, Frankie Daro as a bellboy and Lurene Tuttle as a secretary.  Many of the cast members would do much better work in much better M.G.M. movies in 2 years time. Turner, Sullivan & Calhern would do ”The Bad and The Beautiful” and Hagen and Freeman would make “Singin’ In The Rain”. ­­­­ 


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