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- Published on Amazon.com
Beautiful and talented Angelica Evans (Susan Hayward) seems to have the world on a string, with a successful singing career and the man she loves, Ken Evans (Lee Bowman) poised for success of his own. Unfortunately Angelica lacks confidence, needing some heavy liquid courage before she goes on stage, and when she retires from it to become a full-time mommy and rich woman after Ken becomes a success along with his piano player/songwriting partner Steve (Eddie Albert), she also becomes a full-time alcoholic. As her circumstances and Ken's become easier and more lavish, she feels more and more hopeless and useless - and beging to suspect that Ken's beautiful and very smooth secretary Martha (Marsha Hunt) may be more than just an employee.
Hayward is great in the role that made her a star at age 30 and got her the first of five Oscar nominations. It's known that she was at times a hard drinker herself; whether this made her performance (one of several alcoholics she played, usually to Academy acclaim) any more real or not I wouldn't know, but she convincingly portrays the various stages in the decline of someone into absolute desperation, with the attendant lie-telling and self-loathing. She's riveting, and so are both Albert - as the long-suffering friend of both Angie and Ken, always trying to help them both keep it together - and Hunt as the scorned career-woman, ignored by most and hated by Angie in her boozy paranoia but in the end entirely sympathetic and even verging on tragic.
Unfortunately the last major player in this fairly intimate drama isn't quite up to the level of the others, and Lee Bowman's stiffness is compounded by his poor treatment by the scrïpt - he's called upon to essentially abandon his wife for his career with little explanation as to why it should have to be so. To be fair, Hayward's motivations aren't always clearly defined either, but her showy role allows us to forget some of the stupider choices she makes - and we can always blame it, as she does and eventually everyone else does, on the booze. In the end though, we have to blame a screenplay (by John Howard Lawson, from a story by Dorothy Parker) that quite deliberately throws dramatic moment after moment until a final, ludicrous resolution that feels forced - perhaps by the studio, perhaps by the Production Code. I guess in 1947 you could only be so daring.
Stuart Heisler's direction is fine throughout, fluid and shadowy, with many noirish touches, particulary in the opening and closing, as Hayward's life descends into nightmare; and Stanley Cortez' photography manages to showcase the lavish apartments and nightclub scenes with equal facility. Angie and Ken sing several songs - both Hayward and Bowman are dubbed, none too convingly - the best of which is a slightly treakly but rather beautiful ballad "Life Can Be Beautiful."
Fairly powerful at the beginning, with great, great acting by 3 of the 4 principals, this nevertheless ends up verging on mediocrity thanks to it's ending and some poor motivation and actions given in the seriously flawed screenplay. It coulda been a contender...
Two years later comes this second collaboration between director Heisler and star Hayward. This ends up being about the same quality overall - that is, worth a watch but ultimately just above passable - though unlike the previous film it never shows huge promise up-front, nor does it fall apart so ridiculously at the finish. Instead it's a fairly routine rise-to-power-while-forsaking-ethics tale, with I suppose some novel value in it being a woman (Hayward as 1920s Oklahoma oil baroness Cherokee Lansing) seduced by the power, only to realize in the end how little it's worth.
Filmed in color with a solid cast, most notably including Chill Wills as Cherokee's singing cousin Pinky (and the completely unnecessary narrator) and Robert Preston as college-boy Brad Brady, one of three men vying for Hayward's charms, this is basically a mild, by-the-numbers morality tale purporting to show the value of cooperation and conservation of resources (oil wells thriving side-by-side with ranches) as opposed to greedy get-rich-quick speculation; at the end when everybody including even the most-greedy oil magnate (Lloyd Gough) has come to his or her senses you can almost see the self-congratulatory, optimistic and pie-in-the-sky side of the 1950s opening out of this 1920s storyline.
Still Hayward and Wills are great, Preston is solid, and Pedro Armendariz is also a welcome part of the cast, as a childhood Indian friend of the quarter-Cherokee Ms. Lansing and one of her prospective suitors, trying to be the liberal conscience of the film and ultimately prevailing. The oil-fire action sequence at the end is reasonably exciting as well; all in all, not worth your effort if you're not a Hayward fan I suppose, but not bad if you are.
This VCI disc is short on supplements and the quality isn't the greatest, but I wouldn't hold my breath for any kind of amazing transfers of either of these films (especially TULSA) to show up, so it's certainly worth getting for any serious fans of the star.