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

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Fedora (Marthe Keller) accepts her Oscar
FEDORA (1978). Director: Billy Wilder.

"Moral turptitudeYou can have six husbands but you can't have one illegitimate child. Now you can have no husbands and six children and nobody cares."

Years ago Barry Detweiler (William Holden) once had a fling with the famous actress, Fedora (Marthe Keller). Now she's a recluse in Corfu, living on an island with an old countess (Hildegard Knef) and her doctor (Jose Ferrer of The Shrike). Detweiler, who is now a rather desperate producer, tries to use this slender, long-ago connection to the woman to coax her into coming out of retirement, especially as she looks many years younger. But Fedora's associates seem determined to keep her out of the limelight ... Fedora was pilloried by many critics when it came out primarily because it wasn't Wilder's earlier "Hollywood" picture, Sunset Boulevard, which has many similarities to Fedora (Holden stars in both movies and in each gets involved with an aging actress who is no longer in the business.) Taken on its own terms, however, Fedora is a fascinating picture, not quite a Gothic horror story, that examines image vs reality, irresponsible and tragic behavior, and in the end unravels a decidedly bizarre deception. Marthe Keller was criticized for her work in the film, but she actually gives an excellent performance, far outstripping the others, especially Holden, who seems completely listless. Mario Adorf makes an impression as the Corfu hotel manager. Miss Balfour (Frances Sternhagen of Outland), Fedora's companion,  is almost comically evil and the picture is a trifle overlong. Still, it is a worthwhile companion piece to Sunset Boulevard with its twisted and tragic story. Based on the novella from Thomas Tryon's "Crowned Heads."

Verdict: Weird old Hollywood story generally well-told. ***.


angelman66 said...

Bill, I'm so glad you reviewed this's so little-known and I believe should be elevated to cult status!
LOVE the picture of Fedora with her of the many weird and wonderful scenes in this picture. I agree, Marthe Keller carries the picture, she has to because Holden seems so haggard and tired, just a year or two after being so brilliant in Network.
Great review, right on the money!!

William said...

Thank you! I enjoyed your write-up on "Fedora" on your blog a while ago. I liked the movie -- I saw it in theaters when it was released but could not for the life of me remember what I thought of it years later, which usually isn't good news, but I agree with you that it deserves to be much better known. I think critics can be mercilessly agist -- Wilder and Holden were both "old" so how can the movie be any good, a clear case -- and there are others -- of someone reviewing a filmmaker instead of the film.