Thursday, September 8, 2011
BLACK WIDOW (1954)
Broadway producer Peter Denver (Van Heflin), who is married to actress Iris Denver (Gene Tierney), befriends a struggling young writer named Nanny (Peggy Ann Garner) and eventually wishes he hadn't. Ginger Rogers (Dreamboat) plays his star Carlotta Marin and Reginald Gardiner is her husband, Brian. Possibly attempting to approximate the success of All About Eve, Nunnally Johnson took a story by mystery writer Patrick Quentin (actually Hugh Wheeler) with a Broadway background and concocted another story of an aging affected actress and opportunistic young'n. There the resemblance to All About Eve ends as, to be fair, Black Widow goes in its own direction [after an unpredictable first quarter, however, you can practically write this yourself]. Also, Black Widow is vastly inferior to All About Eve and Ginger Rogers is pretty inadequate doing a lower case Bette Davis. Heflin is as good as ever, but the material is far beneath him, and Gardiner, usually at his best in comedies, is comically miscast in this. Gene Tierney is also good, but she, too, is pretty much wasted. Virginia Leith, Otto Kruger and an unrecognizable Cathleen Nesbitt are excellent in supporting parts. George Raft is simply an embarrassment as a police detective, but Peggy Ann Garner scores as Nanny. The main trouble with Johnson's script is that he hasn't created characters, only trotted out an assortment of types.
Verdict: Watch out for movies in which Reginald Gardiner plays a romantic figure. **.