Archive for the ‘Rhonda Fleming’ 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.



Slightly Scarlet

21 Apr

Slightly Scarlet — Directed by Allan Dwan. Gangster Crime In High Places. A free lance photograqpher takes over a crime syndicate. 99 minutes Color 1956.


The great Robert Alton filmed this for RKO in colors that on the small screen smear. (Alton filmed the big ballet sequence of An American In Paris, so you know what he can do.) This film is sold as a noir, but it is not; it is a crime story, and, since it is not in black and white, how could it be noir? The presence of two redheads, Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl, commanded color, one supposes, but the story is ridiculous in color. And to prove it, the two women never seem to get out of cocktail dresses worn as street clothes at all times of the day. The garishness is without the strength you might find in a Fox musical, say, and the three leads, John Payne, Dahl, and Fleming were never stars; they were leading man and women; they were never asked to carry a picture, but just to throw their sex appeal in the direction of the stars who did carry it. Here, even the three of them together cannot carry the picture. Fleming is of the petrified wood school of acting whose doyenne was Marlene Deitrich. Her brassiere is, like her face, a stony sierra. Never have such peaks been scaled so perilously; they span continents. Arlene Dahl throws herself about like a frisbee seeking a catcher in the part of the mad sister. John Payne is handsome, sexy, dimpled, and lends his stalwart sensuality to a role for which none of those attributes are required. I thought I would never say these words, but where is Richard Widmark when we need him? Alan Dwan, who started directing films in 1911, briskly drove this ambulance to the ER. We forgive you, Allan; nothing could be done to save it; the patient was dead on arrival.


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