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Archive for the ‘Coleen Gray’ Category

Tennessee’s Partner

05 May

Tennessee’s Partner. Directed by Allan Dwan. Gold-rush Western. Two men remain loyal to one another despite it all. 87 minutes Color 1955.

* * * *

None of the four leads, John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Ronald Reagan, Coleen Gray, was a movie star in the sense that they alone could carry a picture, nor can they do so collectively. In his later career Disney carried Reagan, who was really a personable actor, with a particular rolling vocal twang, and a bright eye, and an easy-to-look-at face. What carries the picture is our interest in its writing and in its particular eccentricities of casting, for Coleen Gray, always the nice, loyal girl, plays a gold-digging tart, and plays it well. And Rhonda Fleming, that Queen Of The Foundation Garment, a title which ordinarily extended to her face, plays a wised-up madam, and gloms onto the freedom she finds in the writing of the part to make her unusually flexible and easy to take; good for her. The louche John Payne is perfectly cast as the gambler. The film is over-costumed with a vulgarity that only 50s could achieve, but the great John Alton films it all greedily, so why not? The film resembles an earlier better film about homo-loyalty, Canyon Passage, with Brian Donlevy and Dana Andrews as the males. Here, as there, the film is carried by the eccentricities of the writing of a story which is itself conventional, and which therefore lends itself to unorthodoxy in the execution. Unlike Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward, here it is clear that Payne and Fleming are screwing, but Payne remains chastely averse to marriage or even romance. Payne, as always, exudes sexuality, and, as always, Reagan exudes nothing of the kind, so that alone presents an interesting tension between them. There’s nothing much here, but a certain humor, a certain cynicism, and the garishness of all one beholds.

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