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

Thursday, August 20, 2009


THE COBWEB (1955). Director: Vincente Minelli.

"Van Gogh didn't sell a painting in his lifetime, but now they're worth thirty million. They weren't that bad then and they're not that good now, so who's crazy?"

The patients and staff of a Clinic for Nervous Disorders become embroiled in -- believe it or not -- a fight over which drapes to hang in the library. Some want an attractive if standard pattern, while others, such as Dr. Stewart McIver (Richard Widmark) want to transfer drawings done by a young patient, Stevie (John Kerr), to silk screenings and hang them instead. The complications of the staff's private lives don't help much. Dr. Devanal (Charles Boyer), the former head of the clinic now in a sort of advisory capacity, is an unregenerate skirt-chaser whose secretary (Adele Jergens) is in love with him. Dr. McIver's wife Karen (Gloria Grahame) feels neglected by her husband, who is slowly being drawn to the widowed Activities Director Meg Rinehart (Lauren Bacall). Then there's Miss Inch (Lillian Gish), the prickly, strong-willed spinster with territorial instincts who objects to anyone she sees as threatening to her authority. This is an interesting if overlong melodrama/soap opera with outstanding performances by Gish [great in a mostly unsympathetic part] and Grahame, and very good performances by most of the rest of the cast. The love story between Stevie and fellow patient Sue (Susan Strasberg) is kind of boring, however. Oscar Levant is quite amateurish as a neurotic patient and his scenes should have been cut as they add nothing to the picture. Fay Wray, Myra Marsh [from the operetta episode of I Love Lucy] and Virginia Christine appear in smaller roles. Christine had much bigger roles in The Mummy's Curse, Three Brave Men, and Nightmare (1956). She later became "Mrs. Olsen" of coffee commercial fame.

Verdict: Over-baked but enjoyable for the most part. ***.

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