Eventful Horizon

Nova Scotia! Where they build so close to the horizon line they have to put fences along it to stop people falling off.

The clifftop settings of Jean Negulesco’s JOHNNY BELINDA are so striking — this is a mysterious director, alternating between visually striking films like this, and sometimes wildly experimental ones like his episode of O. HENRY’S FULL HOUSE — and really boring stuff like pretty much all his Cinemascopic output (BOY ON A DOLPHIN is supported only by Sophia Loren’s gravity-defying breasts). He was a skilled channeler of the Warner Bros house style — this is my favourite of those I’ve seen. Anyone have any recommendations?

JB was also of interest because of the presence amid the writers of Irma Von Cube, who, apart from her wonderful name was a collaborator of Anatole Litvak’s during his early career in Europe. Her credits are sporadic but I should check out her Schumann biopic, SONG OF LOVE, directed by Clarence Brown.

It’s the story of a deaf girl who grows upon a poor farm, unable to communicate, then a new doctor teaches her sign language. But it throws in rape and murder, with typical Warners excess.

Jane Wyman is fantastic in this. Jan Sterling, a one-of-a-kind, is great too. Lew Ayres is as lovely a character as 1948 movies could conceive, though perhaps a little mansplainy for modern tastes, puffing the pipe of self-satisfaction. But it’s a much better variation on that kind of figure than THE DARK MIRROR, say, where his pipe-puffing comes with an overlay of smug misogyny.

I associate Negulesco’s triumph here with his skills as a graphic artist: the low horizons are a great gift to him. Credit also to cinematographer Ted McCord (TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE) and production designer Robert Haas (THE MALTESE FALCON).

9 Responses to “Eventful Horizon”

  1. David Ehrenstein Says:

    I love Negulesco’s big splashy Fox Cinemascope spectaculars like “Three Coins in the Fountain” and “How To Marry a Millionaire”

  2. David Ehrenstein Says:

    And here’s Steve Hayes “The Tired Old Queen at the Movies” with a tribute to another great 50’s Negulesco The Best of Everything

  3. I’m a fan even of Negulesco’s late work: he’s a distinctive director of actors, and has an interesting sensibility in general. My favorite late ones are HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, DADDY LONG LEGS, and THE GIFT OF LOVE. THE BEST OF EVERYTHING may have the best rep, but I don’t enjoy it as much. From the 60s, THE PLEASURE SEEKERS really isn’t bad.

  4. The late one I did like was Daddy Long Legs. The others are handsome and relaxing, at least. Still to see The Best of Everything.

    I’m also starting to think that cinematographer Ted McCord is a major auteur.

  5. David Ehrenstein Says:

    “The Best of Everything” sports the most fascinatin gestation. Jerry Wald had been reading newspaper and magazine article about what were then called “Career Girls” He have them to his friend Rona Jaffe and said “Make a novel out of this and I’ll buy it for the movies.” She did. The novel was a hit, so was the movie and Cue Johnyy Mathis

  6. Released the same year, Road House with Ida Lupino is excellent. Not sure which was made first.

    Rains of Ranchipur is… interesting. Brown face Richard Burton as very Welsh Indian.

    I would award a Supporting Role in Boy in a Dolphin to the magnificent Ferrari driven by Clifton Webb’s shady antiquities dealer character.

  7. I like Road House a lot. Sensational noir cast. And I’ve been curious about Rains of Ranchipur.

    The Best of Everything moves up the playlist.

  8. I assume the lure of Lorre/Greenstreet has already drawn you to THE MASK OF DMITRIOS and THREE STRANGERS, but if not, I like them both very much.

  9. Oh yes! The book is even better, imho — Eric Ambler has rarely been translated to the screen effectively. Mask and Topkapi ( a departure for both Ambler and director Jules Dassin) are the exceptions.

    A big lost opportunity is Background to Danger, directed by Walsh and with Lorre again. A shadow of what it should have been: I blame George Raft mainly.

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