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

Thursday, August 1, 2013


FEMALE ON THE BEACH (1955). Director: Joseph Pevney.

Drummer: "How do you like your coffee?"

Lynn: "Alone!"

Wealthy widow Lynn Markham (Joan Crawford) moves into a beautiful beach house her husband owned that had formerly been leased to another wealthy widow, Eloise Crandell (Judith Evelyn). Eloise took a header off the deck onto the rocks below, and homicide is suspected, and the chief suspect is a handsome hustler named Drummer (Jeff Chandler), who has now set his sights on Lynn. Drummer has two sleazy associates who pretend to be his aunt and uncle, Osbert (Cecil Kellaway) and Queenie (Natalie Schafer), but Lynn gives the both of them a good dressing down. Unfortunately, Drummer has something the other two don't have, and that's sex appeal, so Lynn finds herself falling for the guy despite her better instincts. But has she stepped out of the frying pan into the fire? Female on the Beach has a workable premise and some good dialogue, but something's missing, and that's veracity and in-depth characterization. As essayed by Crawford, Lynn seems too smart not to walk away from Drummer when he says things like "I don't hate woman -- I just hate the way they are." True, it takes him some time to wear away her resistance, with her telling him initially "You're about as friendly as a suction pump!" The two leads aren't bad, although in some of their scenes talking of the past they seem like college students in an acting class. Kellaway [The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms] and Schafer [Repeat Performance] are fine, as is Jan Sterling [Johnny Belinda] as a real estate lady and former flame of Drummer's. Evelyn [Rear Window] makes an impression despite her limited screen time -- the opening and a couple of flashbacks. Charles Drake shows up now and then as a cop investigating Eloise's suspicious death [one has to wonder how such a tiny, frail thing as Evelyn could cause such damage to a wooden railing even if she were jet-propelled through it?] Female on the Beach is somewhat entertaining, but it's cheap, tawdry, and often unbelievable. Pevney also directed Man of a Thousand Faces with James Cagney. As an actor he appeared in such films as Body and Soul.

Verdict: Flaccid suspenser. **1/2.

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