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

Thursday, February 4, 2016


SYLVIA (1965). Director: Gordon Douglas.

"Before you can save the soul, you gotta feed the body."

Frederic Summers (Peter Lawford) hires private eye Alan "Mack" Macklin (George Maharis) to investigate the background of his fiancee, Sylvia (Carroll Baker). As Mack tracks down the woman's past, he learns about how she was raped by her stepfather, became a prostitute, then a poet, and has favorably impressed many of the people she met along her journey. This includes the librarian, Irma (Viveca Lindfors) and a former "hostess" named Jane (Joanne Dru), whose hospital bills were paid by Sylvia. Mack finally catches up with Sylvia herself, and is drawn to her -- but what will happen when she discovers the truth about him? At first Sylvia seems that it might have serious possibilities, and doesn't just seem like a tawdry exercise despite the subject matter, but as the film proceeds it's clear that it's pretty much junk that isn't lurid enough. The two leads are okay, but small-scale, and hardly give great performances. There is better acting from Lindfors (whose character has often been considered a lesbian although there's nothing in this to indicate it); Dru; and especially Ann Sothern [A Letter to Three Wives] as a slatternly former co-worker of Sylvia's. There are also nice turns by Nancy Kovack as a stripper, Jay Novello as a priest, Edmond O'Brian [Backfire] as a former client of Sylvia's, Connie Gilchrist as a madame, and especially Paul Gilbert [So This is Paris] as a drag queen entertainer/club owner known as "Lola." Lawford is actually quite good and there are appearances by Aldo Ray, Lloyd Bochner, and Majel Barrett, among other familiar faces, as well. Although the story bounces around from Mexico to New York and other places, there is never any sense of time or location, as if everything exists in that certain soap opera void that only Hollywood could produce.

Verdict: There's a reason why certain movies are completely forgotten. **.


angelman66 said...

Even though you you're not exactly recommending it, this is one I need to see. I am quite the Carroll Baker fan...especially her "glamour moment" of this era...she was a stunning Marilyn Monroe simalucrum in movies like Carpetbaggers and (the awful) Harlow. But I have not yet seen Sylvia. My favorite performance of Baker's is as desperate Queens housewife Hazel Aiken in Andy Warhol's Bad...

Thanks for the tip on this, I think I must see this guilty pleasure immediately!

William said...

It is streaming for a couple of dollars on amazon -- free for prime members. I found it was worth the zero dollars, LOL! I like Carroll (Baby Doll) Baker, too.