Thursday, February 23, 2012

EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE

Nancy Davis [Reagan] and Barbara Stanwyck
EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE (1949). Director: Mervyn LeRoy.

"Just because a man has one perfect rose at home, doesn't mean he can't appreciate the flowers of the field."

"I waited so long for you to come back to me. I never dreamed that when you did, I wouldn't care."

Jesssie Bourne (Barbara Stanwyck) is convinced that her husband Brandon (James Mason) is over his infatuation with former lover Isabel Lorrison (Ava Gardner), now that she's out of town, but when Isabel comes back wanting more, Jessie worries that she might lose him. In the meantime Jessie finds herself drawn to a sympathetic admirer in former cop Mark Dwyer (Van Heflin) who is being courted by newspaper publishers. Lovely Cyd Charisse [The Unfinished Dance] is Rosa, who befriends the Bournes and had a childhood crush on Mark. Nancy Davis -- later the first lady when husband Ronald Reagan became president -- plays Jessie's friend Helen and isn't bad. Douglas Kennedy of Flaxy Martin is a wealthy suitor of Isabel's and Beverly Michaels of Wicked Woman and Blonde Bait is both saucy and sexy as the "big girl" [Michaels was five foot nine] who's carrying a torch for Kennedy. Presumably Gale Sondergaard [The Spider Woman Strikes Back] wasn't thrilled to be cast as Stanwyck's mother when she was only eight years older [and has to say she's fifty-five when she was actually only fifty] but she's as adept as usual. William Conrad of TV's Jake and the Fat Man and Cry Danger plays a cop. William Frawley has a bit part as a bartender, but in two years he would become as famous as the stars when he was cast as Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy. East Side, West Side had real possibilities as a serious drama -- and the script is full of good dialogue -- but ultimately it's too superficial and frankly dull. Stanwyck, Mason, Heflin, and even Gardner are better than the material.

Verdict: There's certainly more to Manhattan than this. **1/2.

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