Wednesday, May 13, 2009



Want some cheesy flix from the 1950's? You do? Well, you can't go wrong with anything Lana Turner did. Glossy, Cinemascopey, Lush and Horrid, Turner was on the downturn at 35 when she made:

THE PRODIGAL. Oh. My. God. Turner stars in this $5,000,000 "Biblical" epic wearing almost nothing. Supposedly based on the fable of The Prodigal Son, Lana really, REALLY did not want to do this flick. But it was those waning years of her career at MGM, and she was contractually obligated. So she made EVERYONE miserable, particularly the wardrobe people, spending hours and hours in fittings of scanty-panty chiffon frocks. Lana is just a wreck, but she has that patented MGM walk as she climbs the stairs to the Pagan Altar. Micah (Edward Purdom) is the Prodigal Son, who wanders into Damascus and immediately pops a woody for Turner, Pagan High Priestess. She persuades him to forgo his Hebrew faith, squander his small fortune. This movie is SOOOO awful and cringe making, that by the end, when Turner flings herself into the Sacrificial Fire, you get the idea that she would rather have done it at the beginning of the flick.

Based on the best-selling, scandalous novel by Grace Metalious, PEYTON PLACE features Lana as a frigid widow with a secret. And she takes it all out on her daughter, played by some pert-nosed ingenue from the 50's. Hope Lange (proving herself to be quite the young actress) portrays a beat-about-the-place daughter who also has a secret. Also starring Terry (Mrs Howard Hughes) Moore, David Nelson (can't act, but eye candy), Russ Tamblyn (the son of a domineering mother) and ever present Lloyd Nolan as the kindly town doctor who gives one heck of a speech to a courtroom full of gossipy, prune faced spinsters. This film eventually became a hit, only after Turner's daughter ended up in juvie for killing Johnny Stompanato, and resurrected Lana's waning career. This movie makes Bellingham look like a nice place to live....only not in Technicolor. Or cool clothes.

The success of Peyton Place brought on Lana's next flick IMITATION OF LIFE. I've reviewed it before, and you probably have already seen it, so why bother repeating myself? Costarring Sandra Dee and Juanita Moore.

Next up: Turner plays MADAME X, the many times filmed glossy version of a woman forced out of town by her mother in law, Constance Talmadge. Talmadge steals the show as the arch Mommie Dearest, John Forsyte the mourning husband, and Kier Dullea as the handsome son who ends up defending his mother for murder. Schmaltzy stuff, but OK.

PORTRAIT IN BLACK features Turner as some vicious woman who murders Lloyd Nolan for his dough. Also starring Sandra Dee as her step daughter, and John Saxon as Dee's swarthy beau. This one is not so great, but not nearly as bad as The Prodigal.

Not starring Turner, but Susan Hayward, BACK STREET. This is another of those Ross Hunter productions that pairs aged Hayward with John Gavin. Gavin's married to drunken sot Vera Miles who gives vindictive a great name. When she buys fashion designer Hayward's wedding gown at a charitable function, then wants it packaged and sent to "MISS! RAE! SMITH!" (Hayward, Gavin's mistress) the hoity toity matron's are scandalized. This has a typical tear jerker ending. But quelle effectif!

THE RAPE OF EUROPA is a dazzling educational film of how the Nazis planned and plundered Europe's greatest art collections from museums and Jewish families alike. Ah, but then come the Allies, and they plunder the great works of German artists. Oh, this is good shit. Joan Allen narrates.

1 comment:

Craig Curtis said...

Interesting point. Thanks for the input!