Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

HILDA CRANE


HILDA CRANE (1956). Director: Philip Dunne.

After two disastrous marriages and what she considers "failure" in New York City, Hilda Crane (Jean Simmons) returns to her home town and her mother and ponders her future. Her unaffectionate mother, Stella (Judith Evelyn), thinks she should forget all about romantic notions of "love" and settle for appearances, a marriage that is settled and stabled (and, perhaps, without passion). Should Hilda marry small-town guy Russell Burns? [The fact that Burns is not only rich and nice, but is played by handsome Guy Madison, must have made Hilda's indecision over the matter seem a little comical to some ladies in the audience.] Or should she settle for a more passionate relationship with her former teacher Jacques (Jean-Pierre Aumont) whom she apparently finds more exciting? Evelyn Varden almost steals the picture as Russell's termagant of a mother, who thinks Hilda is nothing but a tramp and isn't afraid to say so. Peggy Knudsen adds some bite as Hilda's blunt friend, Nell, and Jeannette MacDonald's sister Blossom Rock (AKA Marie Blake) is cast as Mrs. Crane's housekeeper. [Years later she played Grandmama on The Addams Family TV show.]. The usually reliable Judith Evelyn doesn't quite seem to get a handle on how she should play her character. Hilda Crane is watchable and generally well-acted, but despite the occasional crisp or intelligent line, it's just comes off as a forgettable soap opera.

Verdict: Peyton Place Lite. **.

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