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

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


WICKED AS THEY COME (1956). Director: Ken Hughes.

This pretty much forgotten movie stars Arlene Dahl (pictured) as a woman from a poor Boston suburb who uses her charms to insure she wins a beauty contest, and from then on strings along a series of men, each one older and richer than the one before. She eventually becomes embroiled in a murder trial. Phil Carey plays the less successful – and rather sappy – guy who remains consistently infatuated with her and comes to her defense. Dahl gives a pretty good performance (one suspects she was playing someone not all that different from the real Arlene Dahl), and Herbert Marshall is also fine as one of her married paramours; the supporting performances are also on the money. She gets engaged to her first conquest, runs up a huge bill at shops as his fiancee, then skips town and leaves him with a staggering amount of debt – but he manages to get an ironic revenge at the end. Dahl’s philosophy, as she tells the father-son newspaper team whom she used to become beauty queen, is that men are perfectly willing to exploit women for their pleasure but they don’t like it when the shoe is on the other foot (however, she should by no means be confused with a feminist, although she is certainly quite intelligent). It’s strange that Dahl doesn’t try to make her way to Hollywood but opts for a "career" in business instead, but that may be part of her "smarts." The script comes up with a somewhat dubious (and convenient) psychological motive for her hatred of men as if her wanting a better life and more security isn’t enough to turn her into a gold digger. The picture is not a masterpiece but it holds the attention and is often very funny. "Women like me don't get proposals," says Dahl, "only propositions."
Verdict: Some fun. **1/2.

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