For Reel

Deep Valley (1947)
August 28, 2016, 1:20 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jean Negulesco
3 Stars
Deep ValleyThis quasi-noir from director Jean Negulesco plays as the director’s warm-up for Johnny Belinda in the way that it details a deeply troubled, abused young girl and the men who become catalysts for her redemption. In her last film for Warner Brothers (which she was leaving bitterly, having just refused a contract extension in favor of moving onto independent projects), Ida Lupino plays the farm girl who developed a severe stutter after her father (Henry Hull) hit her mother (Fay Bainter) in the heat of an argument years prior. One afternoon, she happens upon a sweaty, shirtless chain-gang, instigating an eventual revolution that sees her creating a temporary home with an escaped convict (Dane Clark). As in Frank Borzage’s Moonrise, Clark plays his character’s vulnerabilities quite well—if he doesn’t have the screen presence of a John Garfield, it works for his doomed, pathetic character. Lupino is too strong a performer to be convincingly “saved” by Clark, but the inverse actually works quite well. There’s a terrific scene where Clark nearly decapitates Lupino after mistaking her as someone who might blow her cover. Wordlessly, Lupino slowly retreats from the scene, the drama of the event convincingly played by Lupino’s understated reaction and the calm grace of her movements—whereas other actresses might have played it as an explosion, Lupino is simultaneously horrified and disappointed as she collects her thoughts. Deep Valley feels about a half hour too long, but Ted McCord’s cinematography (McCord would shoot The Treasure of the Sierra Madre the following year) brings an expressionistic edge to the southern Gothic aesthetic, with shadows and crashes of lightning creating a horrific atmosphere in the troubled household.

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