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

Thursday, December 10, 2020


Fredric March and Kim Novak
(1959). Director: Delbert Mann.

"A small bubble of middle-aged sanity has been punctured."

56-year-old Jerry Kingsley (Fredric March, who was actually in his sixties) is a widower in the garment business who consoles Betty (Kim Novak), a woman who works for him one evening, and then finds himself falling for her. She agrees to date him but tells him bluntly that she could never love a man old enough to be her father. Or could she? Both Kingsley's and Betty's families are horrified when they learn that the two are engaged.  

Novak and March
Although this adaptation of the play by Paddy Chayefsky (who also did the screenplay) got mixed reviews at the time of its release, it emerges as an excellent, trenchant and uncompromising study of the relationship between a woman in her twenties and a man in his fifties. It's interesting that the film never comes off as mere wish-fulfillment fantasy for middle-aged men, being on a much higher level. March offers a superb performance that never once hits a false note. Although not on March's level of consummate ability, Novak is nevertheless quite good and appealing as Betty. Edith Meiser, Lee Grant, Glenda Farrell (as Betty's mother), Joan Copeland and Martin Balsam are all on target in their respective roles, and Albert Dekker offers the performance of a lifetime as Walter Lockman, the salesman with the big talk who poignantly pours out his lonely heart to March when he learns the latter plans to marry. The film is full of wonderful and true observations about what it means to get old in our society. As Jerry says to Betty, "I'm scared of things you wouldn't understand because you're just a kid." Chayefsky's dialogue and characterizations are top of the line. Ultimately the movie is about seeking out and holding on to life-affirming experiences no matter what your age. "You can have peace when you're dead," says Jerry. Amen to that!

Verdict: Just beautiful. ****.


angelman66 said...

Good movie. Probably Kim Novak’s best performance, and a great late career performance by March. I love Kim! Just watched her again in Bell Book and Candle the other night and she was wonderful.
- Chris

William said...

I am going to take a look at her in "Notorious Landlady" soon. I think I saw only part of that on TV many years ago. And I'm overdue to look at "Vertigo" once again!