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Archive for the ‘FILMED BY: Hal Mohr’ Category

The Lost Moment

14 Aug

The Lost Moment – directed by Martin Gabel. Turgid Melodrama. 83 minutes Black And White 1947.

★★

The Story: An American publisher inveigles his way into the lives of an ancient woman and her niece in order to make off with a literary treasure.

~

A curious inert version of Henry James’ The Aspern Papers, it holds one’s attention through its photography by Hal Mohr and the gothic atmosphere of a haunted palazzo in Hollywood’s version of Venice.

The script collapses around its own improbabilities, but it might have worked if the story had started later in the telling than it does. The romance needs to begin in the first reel, not the fourth. The publisher needs to be already inside the house. Who he is and what he is doing there should also be a mystery.

It also has two actors destined not to work opposite one another, born to clash.

Robert Cummings is too mealy-mouthed to play a ruthless and mendacious publisher sneaking into an old woman’s house to filch her love letters from a famous dead poet. As an actor he is not insensitive, but he is also nothing else.

Opposite him is the redoubtable Susan Hayward. Her stride is martial. Her voice deep. Her air draconian. She is an actor feasting on tension. Never a relaxed or spontaneous moment comes near her. All is calculated. One wonders she gives herself permission to breathe.

Agnes Moorhead is so covered with latex, her face never actually appears before us. She is evidently 105. And her voice never claims our ears with Morehead’s belovèd hysteria. She speaks with an English accent, so all is lost.

Almost from the start one is tempted with rewriting this film into a workable version. The story appeals to the writer in one, because it is about a priceless relic, such as every writer ambitions to leave behind to confirm his immortality.

Perhaps it has to remain the novella James made of it.

 

 
 
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