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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

LADY WITH RED HAIR


LADY WITH RED HAIR (1940). Director: Curtis Bernhardt.

The "true" if fictionalized story of Caroline (Mrs. Leslie) Carter (Miriam Hopkins) who goes on the stage after she is divorced by her husband. The film purports that Carter became an actress only to get money to fight for custody of her son, but in real life the boy actually stayed with his mother and was cut out of his father's will because of it. In the film Carter unrealistically tries to storm Broadway by coming in on the top instead of the bottom, but it is true that her association with David Belasco (a magnificent Claude Rains) helped put her over the top. The film doesn't make clear that she was considered the American Sarah Burnhardt in her day. Richard Ainley plays her second husband, and as the film suggests, their marriage did signal the end of her association with Belasco (although in the film he comes in at the end to help guide her in one last production). Miriam Hopkins gives a solid performance, but up against Claude Rains there is little she can do to steal the picture. The supporting cast includes such sterling players as Laura Hope Crews, John Litel, Victor Jory, and Cecil Kellaway. A very young Cornel Wilde has a small role, and you probably won't notice Alexis Smith or Craig Stevens.

Verdict: A lady you might like to make the acquaintance of -- on film, at least. ***.

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