Friday, May 3, 2013

Sketches of Priscilla Lane, Sylvia Sidney, & Gregory Peck

Priscilla Lane "Four Daughters" 1938.
For the longest time the only film I saw Priscilla Lane in was the dark comedy "Arsenic and Old Lace," opposite Cary Grant.  "Oh Mortimer," she would purr, as she tried to get Cary away from his crazy old aunts' house, not knowing that Cary had discovered his aunts were killing old men and hiding them in the basement.
Thanks to Turner Classic Movies I've been able to see many more of her films, including "Four Daughters," which also stars Claude Rains and John Garfield.  She falls in love with a talented composer (played by Felix Deitz), but dumps him when she discovers one of her other sisters is also in love with him; instead she marries the composer's pessimistic friend, John Garfield.  I've never understood why she sacrifices her love for her sister, who seems ungrateful, and who doesn't even manage to win the composer's love.  After John Garfield dies in an apparent suicide, Priscilla just picks up where she left off with the still single composer.  It's really very dark; Priscilla suffers for her ungrateful sister, lives with a miserable pessimistic loser, then becomes a young widow.  At least it ends well?

Sylvia Sidney "You Only Live Once" 1937.
 Unfortunately I only caught the last act of this Fritz Lang classic, which also stars Henry Fonda.  Wrongly accused of murder he gets sent to prison; once there, he kills a priest in an escape attempt, becoming an actual killer.  He and Sidney are forced to flee, giving up their child to do so.  And in classic 1930s style, they are forced to die for their crimes.  It's a brutal film, very stylized (the breakout scene is stunning) and very emotional.  I'm eager to catch the entire film next time it airs.

Gregory Peck "Duel in the Sun" 1946.
Gregory Peck plays a cold-hearted killer in love with his good-guy brother's girl.  Joseph Cotten plays his brother; Jennifer Jones the sultry "half-breed" girl taken into the family after her father is hanged.  (She played a number of "ethnic" types in her early roles, even though she's most famous for films like "Portrait of Jennie.") Peck is great as a bad guy.  He chews up his lines and plays a real desperate character, doing his unscrupulous father's bidding and just being unpredictable.  And the Technicolor is beautiful.

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