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The Constant Nymph (1943)
March 12, 2016, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edmund Goulding
3 Stars
The Constant NymphJoan Fontaine often championed The Constant Nymph as the favorite film of her career, which is unsurprising given how it compares to the types of entertainments she was making at the time. Unlike the films she made with Hitchcock or forgettable supporting roles in pictures like Gunga Din, The Constant Nymph provided a very particular challenge in having the then 25-year-old play a bubbly young teen. If the performance plays as a distracting gimmick in the early goings–Fontaine’s exuberance might be a bit much, as she skips and hops around the house and squeals with glee–it is undeniable that there is a certain appeal in watching Fontaine self-consciously toy with her own image. Her feminity was often played as almost royal in her restraint, and just as she explored femme fatale roles in later years, here she embraces the innocent side of her screen image. Unfortunately, it’s about the only thing about The Constant Nymph that is memorable, particularly because only four years later Fontaine starred in another film that involved a woman’s infatuation with a man in Letter from an Unknown Woman. Director Edmund Goulding was a respectable director of melodramas (he was behind the camera in the women’s pictures that certified Bette Davis’ stardom), but as a storyteller he was rather literal. That the outdoor scenes play on a readily apparent soundstage is the exception that works to the film’s benefit–its false perfection resembling the dreams of the young protagonist. But as the love interest, Charles Boyer is miscast, given that Fontaine’s wholesome performance isn’t cohesive with Boyer’s cynical image. It is unthinkable that such a bouncy young woman would develop such an obsession with a passionless, even depressed musician. But there are nice moments here and there, the best of which tend to involve Alexis Smith as “the other woman” that Boyer marries and eventually regrets having done so. When Smith admits defeat, the scene plays as rather tidy but also as a tremendously sincere moment of empathy from one woman to another.



We’re Not Married! (1952)
February 27, 2012, 5:13 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edmund Goulding

The stressed importance of familial stability in post-war America has made the 1950s an era prone to a specific kind of satire. Clichés, exemplified in such cultural staples as “Leave It to Beaver”, are numerous: white picket fences, housewives in pearls and heels. In 1952, Edmund Goulding suggested a more cynical look at the tenuous bonds of matrimony in a star-studded anthology picture entitled We’re Not Married!. An elderly man, played by Victor Moore, is appointed justice of the peace, however he prematurely begins marrying couples before he is legally enabled to do so. The film follows five couples who respond to the news that, as the title suggests, they are not married. In one of the chapters, Paul Douglas and Eve Arden play a dissatisfied married couple. When Douglas receives his fateful letter, he fantasizes about getting together with a different woman every day of the week. Once he realizes the expenses of a life of womanizing, he decides that he would be better off to remain in a loveless marriage. Like all of these episodic pictures, the material is very hit-and-miss, however two of the five segments are quite good. The chapter involving Ginger Rogers and Fred Allen is wildly entertaining, thanks to a particularly scathing sequence in which the radio team is forced to speak almost exclusively in advertisements, poking fun at the ultra-consumerist decade. Louis Calhern and ZsaZsa Gabor feature in the best of the chapters, however, in which Calhern’s gold-digging wife files for divorce with intentions of making off with millions, before Calhern reveals that she has no claim to any of his assets.