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

Thursday, January 3, 2008


THE LOVES OF EDGAR ALLAN POE. (1942). Director: Henry Lachman.

Producer Bryan Foy brought this project with him from Warner Brothers and 20th Century-Fox chief Daryl Zanuck had little interest in it, unfortunately. Which is probably why what could have been a masterpiece was chopped down to a 65 minute long "B" feature that did little for its cast or director. The script is suprisingly faithful to the basic facts of Poe's life, especially his strained, hostile relationship with his guardian John Allan, although the age of Poe's cousin Virginia, whom Poe married, is increased from a scandalous, immoral thirteen to around eighteen as a sop to the production code. Director Henry Lachman helmed a film with a good pace and much atmosphere and the cast could not be bettered, with Strudwick superb and passionate as Poe. Strudwick probably would (and should) have had a much bigger career if Zanuck and the studio had lavished more promotional care on what is probably the only (near-major) film he starred in. The under-rated Linda Darnell [photo above], who herself was only eighteen at the time, is also excellent as Virginia, and Jane Darwell gives her usual fine performance as Virginia's mother, "Muddy." At such a short length (much of the picture seems to have been left on the cutting room floor; the voice-over narration is a dead giveaway) the film is not nearly as developed in the dramatic sense as it needs to be, and it did not receive good reviews. Still, the performances alone make it memorable, and there are several good scenes, including one in which Poe reads "The Raven" to a group of men who can't make head nor tail out of it; only a small boy registers his appreciation. [This effective sequence is quite contrived, however, as "The Raven" was actually one of Poe's most popular successes.]

Verdict: Under-rated and memorable. ***.

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