Thursday, August 2, 2012
THE GREAT MAN'S LADY
On the day of the dedication of a statue of the late and great man and pioneer-turned-millionaire Ethan Hoyt (Joel McCrea), reporters try to get a story about him from a woman, Hannah Sempler (Barbara Stanwyck), who claims she was once married to him, even though there's no proof of a union and it might even make Hoyt a bigamist. The movie is a flashback to 1848 that explains this contradiction, and shows how Hannah did indeed marry Ethan, and why he remarried even though they were never divorced, and it's a sad and fascinating story. Brian Donlevy is a third character, Steely Edwards, who falls unrequitedly in love with Hannah and has much to do with her life and marriage. There are interesting twists and turns to the plot, and the movie is bolstered by another excellent performance from the indomitable Stanwyck; McCrea and Donlevy are also very good. As the film proceeds we can see how much of his success Hoyt owes to the smarter Hannah. Stanwyck's old age make up as she plays a centenarian at the beginning and end is very well done.
Verdict: Flavorful film with fine performances and an unusual storyline. ***.