Saturday, March 31, 2012

Film Review: Back Street (1961)

A beautiful couple . . .
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TCMDb: Third screen version of the classic romance about a woman sacrificing everything for love of a married man.

    John Gavin and Susan Hayward make a stunning couple in the third version of Back Street. They are so wonderful to look at that even if the film didn't have a plot, it would be alright because then you wouldn't have to worry about keeping up with anything except looking at the two star leads. However, at the same time, casting John Gavin as Susan Hayward's love interest, Paul Saxon, in itself is strange casting if you consider the fact that at the time Susan was forty-four-years-old to Gavin's thirty, and that he was also over a head foot taller than she. Ah, but who cares? One, Susan hardly looks like she's forty-four, and Gavin fits very nicely into the whole "tall, dark, and handsome" genre that it hardly matters that she was fourteen-years-older than he was, and he over a head foot taller than her.
     I haven't seen the two previous versions of this movie with John Boles and Irene Dunne being in the first, and Charles Boyer and Margaret Sullavan, but I honestly don't see how I could possibly like those two versions better than I do this one.
Psst! Do you think he likes what he sees?
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     This movie, along with others as well, got me to thinking (look out Einstein!) how we romanticize so many things in the movies, but then when it actually happens in real life, we're ready to go after the couple in the same position with pitchforks and torches. Why is that? In the real world do we hardly ever cadone something of this relation, but when it happens in the pictures, we're all ready to pull out our hankies and weep buckets along with Rae as she chooses to live her life without being able to acknowledge Paul Saxon as her husband, and not being able to have children (well, she wouldn't back in those days). Instead, she has to watch him stay married to Liz, played by Vera Miles, and have two children with her.
     So, why is that we accept it in the films, but not in the real world? Okay, I'm done thinking (you can relax Einstein).
Let the heartbreaking begin . . .
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     This is what some might call a "three-hankie" picture, another couple of examples of "three-hankies" are Love Affair with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne, and the remake, An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. It's truly heartbreaking, so much that you beg for at least of five minute break, but if you do that then you have to come back to it and then start the heartbreaking all over again. It's kind of like taking off a band-aid: it's better to rip it off all at once then inching it away.
     I read a comment on youtube by a user who said that this is the "chick-flick to end all chick-flicks", and she (or he, I'm not sure) is right. Nonetheless, it shouldn't send femenists or men running for the hills. All around, it's a fine, entertaining picture, I give it a 3/4 stars.

     And to end my Susan Hayward, Star of the Month tribute, I'm going to leave you with a friend's fine tribute to Susan (whom happens to be his favorite actress).

Beloved she was.
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