Archive for the ‘Nancy Davis’ Category

East Side, West Side

17 Dec

East Side, West Side — directed by Mervyn Leroy — drama about a society woman who finds her husband is stepping out on her. 108 minutes black and white 1949

* * * *

Cyd Charisse had an appealing lady-like quality to her, something modest and reserved. Also something inherently comedic, as can be seen in her ravishing poker-faced finale-dances in the saloons with Astaire and Kelly. Here she is less brilliantly dressed than the female star who is the addiction of James Mason in the picture, a sex addict helpless to stop himself. Understandable if the object of his compulsion happens to be Ava Gardner. Gardner really can’t act, and she knew it, and both things show. She was a very interesting woman off the screen, one hears, rather like Paulette Goddard was — direct, honest, and fun. Here, as usual, she is forced and broad and untrained, and it is painfully obvious in her scenes opposite Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck always had the common touch as an actress. She was a girl from Brooklyn and never lost her Brooklyn accent. She was tiny, had a marvelous carriage, moved fabulously, exuded physical strength, had great direct execution as an actress — everything was clear and ready — and she had an interesting alto vocal quality to boot. But the voice is somewhat flat and she is always all too ready with a response. She is canny as an actress in her few pauses, but she does tend to rush her lines and leaves most of her material unexplored for its details. (For a detail-brilliant actress see Geraldine Page.) She lacks breadth and range: she seldom played comedy, although she was a Good Time Charley at it when she did. But essentially her dramatic range even at high pitch is monotonous. She is peculiar in looks and in energy. She was convincing as someone who worked for a living, someone who did things. Here she plays a Park Avenue matron, which is, of course, ridiculous, but she gets away with it, not because she acts it or has to act it, but because every character in the story plays up to her as such, just as, for film after film, she is referred to as a beauty, which, of course, she was not. But she was someone whom we were all accustomed to, like Dick Tracy or Blondie. Into this Hollywood cocktail arrives the earthy and naturally humorous Van Heflin, with his lovely technique, who breathes an air of reality into the proceedings that nearly topples the picture. But he is a very adaptable actor and one who is appealingly self-effacing. The film is a fancy MGM production — pulp, of course, but, if one likes pulp, as I do, a show with a lot of residual merit.


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