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Year: 1954

Director: Fritz Lang

Cast: Gloria Grahame, Glenn Ford, Broderick Crawford

Wanting to cash in on the success of Lang’s The Big Heat which had been released the previous year, Columbia had the great director re-team Grahame and Ford in another film noir called Human Desire. Personally speaking, I think Renoir’s La Bete Humaine w/ Jean Gabin is a better movie from the same book but it doesn’t have Grahame now does it? In this noir, GG plays her most twisted, depraved, and amoral femme fatale. Vicki Buckley is the wife of Carl (Broderick Crawford) and they have a brutal marriage. Carl is abusive and he lacks any urbanities whatsoever. As we find out from their arguments, it appears that Grahame’s character only married Carl because he had a good job @ the railroad and she had no other outs. It’s a decision she’s come to regret since.

Glenn Ford plays our protagonist in the film, Jeff Warren. Mr. Warren is a Korean War veteran who has come back to his sleepy hometown to re-claim his job as a railroad engineer. Jeff encounters Vicki a couple of times in town and her hotness cannot be denied. He asks around about who she is and he is intrigued by the hushed tones and curt responses he gets from his friends.

Crawford’s character screws up @ work by offending a customer and his blustery behavior costs him his job. Desperate and feeling emasculated, Carl pleads with his wife to go see wealthy industrialist Mr. Owens — played by Grandon Rhodes — to make his case and save his position. Mr. Buckley has seemingly bought the story his wife gave him re: how she knows Owens so well. Vicki claims that he is an old family friend that was very fond of her as a child. Is her husband actually asking his wife to bang this guy? Carl dances around any clarification but the implication is clear: do whatever it takes. The whole time Vicki is w/ Owens her spouse is seething in anger and jealousy. Upon her return, she informs him that Owens called in a marker and got him reinstated. His angry interrogation into what happened and what took so long quickly escalates into an ugly fight that gets physical.

Vicki begins seeing her new sugar daddy on the side and a suspicious Carl catches them on a train together. Crazed and out of control, Mr. Buckley kills the industrialist right in front of his wife. Surprisingly, Mrs. Buckley is quick to recover and help her husband figure a way out of their mess. Jeff is off-duty and happens to be on the same train bound for Chicago as the Buckleys. Looking to dispose of the body, Carl sees that Ford’s engineer is the only person in the car that would be able to see him pull the murdered industrialist through the door and out of sight. He orders Vicki to go flirt with him as a distraction. Jeff and Grahame’s less-than-reputable housewife hit it off quickly even resulting in a passionate kiss.

When the body is found it comes out in the police investigation that the Buckleys were in the train car adjacent to the murder victim. Jeff is called as a witness and reluctantly lies under oath to protect Vicki. He clearly is whipped. They begin a torrid affair and Jeff grows angrier as his lover tells stories and provides evidence of Carl’s mistreatment. Talk snowballs into discussion of murder. The film’s protagonist is so high off Vicki’s fumes that he contemplates ridding her of the brutish Carl. After all, he killed men in Korea. Why would this be harder?

I won’t reveal anything more about how Human Desire plays out. What’s left to be said are more thoughts on what makes Vicki tick. Yes, she’s being abused by her husband. But in their scenes together, Mrs. Buckley is no frightened mouse. She’s right in her spouse’s face taunting him and challenging his manhood. The psychology of her character is difficult to grasp. At times she is even what you’d call passive agressive, pushing all the right buttons that will set off the volatile Carl. By the end of the picture, the viewer has to believe that Grahame’s sinister femme fatale is incapable of loving anyone.

Year: 1939
Director: Tay Garnett
Cast: Loretta Young, David Niven, Broderick Crawford, Billie Burke, Eve Arden, Hugh Herbert, C. Aubrey Smith, Virginia Field, Zasu Pitts, Raymond Walburn

Eternally Yours was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid, and it was one of the first classic movies that I really, really loved. It had been about 10 years since I’d last seen it, despite the fact that I’ve owned it on DVD for several years now (it came with The Greeks Had a Word for Them). So yesterday I decided to pop it into the DVD player. And then I proceeded to ruin my childhood memories.

Anita (Young) is getting ready to marry Don (Crawford) when she meets charming and committed magician Tony (Niven). The two fall in love and marry. Anita goes on the road with Tony’s act, even performing in his show with him. But his stunts become more and more dangerous to please his devoted crowd, and Anita can no longer take it.  She divorces him, and to get over the heartache, she marries Don. But of course Anita can’t escape Tony for long, and not long after her wedding they’re stuck at the same party together.

It’s not that Eternally Yours is a bad movie.  It’s not. It’s just not all that great, and certainly not as great as I remembered it being. Looking at it now with the eye of someone who’s been studying film for so long, I can easily see its many faults. Which are as follows…

The film has a wonderful supporting cast in C. Aubrey Smith, Eve Arden, Bille Burke, and Zasu Pitts, but they are all under-utilized. Arden, Smith, and Burke seem to disappear half-way through the film, which adds to the feeling that there are two very different types of films going on.

Yes, there is a huge tonal/content shift halfway through the movie once Anita and Tony are divorced that is jarring. The first half is actually very charming, and is easily the best part of the movie. Niven and Young have good chemistry, and the story of a daring magician who’s torn between his commitment to his fans and his commitment to his wife makes for a very interesting love story. Had this simple premise been pulled out a little more, it would have made for a very charming romance.

But then it shifts halfway through to become a remarriage comedy. Which is a big mistake, because the best remarriage comedies are the ones that build the premise of the remarriage from very early in the film. (There are exceptions to this of course, like Sturges’ The Lady Eve.) This remarriage comedy falls flat on its face because it’s given very little time to breathe or develop. This whole aspect of the film feels very rushed.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie, and perhaps if I hadn’t loved it so much when I was young I may have enjoyed it a little more this time around. But as it is, I feel like I just destroyed a very important part of my childhood film experience.

By Katie Richardson

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Year: 1940

Director: George Marshall

Starring: Randolph Scott, Kay Francis, Broderick Crawford, Brian Donlevy

This Western is a notable one from the resume of the legendary Randolph Scott. The production values aren’t quite up to a Hawks, Ford, or Mann film but it distinguishes itself in more than one respect from the rest of the B-Western category. It sports an awesome cast aside from Scott including the female lead played by Kay Francis; and great supporting turns are turned in by Broderick Crawford and Brian Donlevy. The stunts in the picture involving trains are unusually good and quite dangerous as well. The story is a fictional take on the real-life Dalton gang and it puts the viewer in a position to see how they got into a life of crime from their perspective.

Lawyer Tod Jackson (Scott) is on his way to establish a practice in Guthrie, Oklahoma when he decides to get off the stage at his old hometown: Coffeyville. Childhood friends of the Dalton brothers, Tod is eager to catch up. He meets a beautiful young woman named Julie King (Francis) while sending a telegraph and is instantly smitten by her. After some amusing confusion over identities, Bob (Crawford) and Grat (Donlevy) insist on Tod staying over so he can attend their mother’s birthday the following day. Much to Tod’s dismay, he finds out that Julie is already engaged to Bob. The brothers relay the current state of affairs that faces their farm: the Kansas Land and Development Company is claiming plots all over the countryside, kicking any existing farmers off the land. The Daltons appeal to the Scott character’s legal expertise in such issues and want the counselor to represent their interests.

Things heat up while Bob is out of town as Julie and Tod start seeing each other socially. When Francis’ character confesses her love for the lawyer over her fiance, a conflicted Tod leaves town. One of the heads of the KLDC appears armed with surveyors and he intends to overtake part of the Dalton spread. The brothers confront the trespassers and a melee breaks out with one of the surveyors dying by freak accident. Ben is accused of murder and he’s put in jail pending trial. Having come back to town to help his friends, our hero is prepared to provide a legal defense. When Crawford’s character realizes that the trial is fixed against him, he escapes with the help of his brothers. The Daltons are falsely accused of several bank robberies and they are devastated to learn that their mother’s farm was burned down after they attempted to see her.

When they get wind that the railroad is behind all the land grabbing, the Daltons target several trains carrying payroll. This is where the great stuntwork comes in as the brothers are shown jumping via horseback from a car while the train is moving. Also, they manage to board a train @ full speed from their mounts. Very impressive. When the brothers get greedy and attempt to knock off their hometown bank, they bite off more than they can chew. The carnage is complete and with not a Dalton left standing, Tod and Julie are free to pursue matrimonial bliss.

When the Daltons Rode really sets itself apart from other Western offerings of comparable budgets. The actors are all quite good — Crawford especially — and the execution of the story is compelling, if untrue, as it paints a portrait of the legendary gang from the late 19th century.

By James White

Year: 1954

Director: Fritz Lang

Starring: Glen Ford, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford

Sometimes I wonder as I watch an old movie how they got past the censors of the day. Human Desire is one of those movies. This is one of the most sexually charged, gritty and explicit films from the 1950s that I have seen in a long time.

The plot follows a young train engineer who has just recently returned from the military. This engineer, played by Glenn Ford, returns to his old job and while catching up with friends finds one of his prior colleagues has done very well for himself financially and is now married to a much younger woman named Vicki Buckley (played by Gloria Grahame). He soon starts to discover that there is something suspicious going on between them and as he starts to uncover more and more he also becomes more and more interested in his old friend’s wife. Soon, the family he rents a room from and lives with, including a young daughter who has matured into a woman while he was away, start to notice his absence night after night as well as many phone calls between him and Vicki Buckley.

All the actors in this film did a fantastic job portraying their parts. Gloria Grahame and Broderick Crawford especially stand out as the newly married couple. Gloria Grahame who I recently saw in In a Lonely Place with Humphrey Bogart appears to be a real chameleon and a very accomplished actress. Her performance is fantastic. She straddles the line of sympathetic victim and ominous temptress perfectly always leaving the audience somewhat off balance, but completely riveted at the same time.

Her husband, played by Broderick Crawford is also perfect for his part. His character is gruff and intimidating but also jealous and insecure which must have been a difficult blend of emotions to characterize.

This movie was also very interesting in how it gave a fresh take on the femme fatale as well as its exploration of male-female relationships.

Visually speaking this is a very enjoyable movie to watch as it masterfully sets the mood through the cinematography, including the use of light and dark. Certain frames are so dark one can hardly make out anything until a perfectly timed splash of light illuminates the frame and furthers the story.

This is a great character driven story about the darkest of human desires.

By Greg Dickson