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

Thursday, July 6, 2017


Shelley Winters and Ronald Colman
A DOUBLE LIFE (1947). Director: George Cukor.

Anthony John (Ronald Colman) is a well-known theater actor who is divorced from, but still in love with, his ex-wife, Brita (Signe Hasso of A Reflection of Fear). They have remained friends and co-workers and decide to do their rendition of Shakespeare's Othello. Never too tightly wrapped to begin with, Anthony begins unraveling as the successful show goes on month after month, developing an intense jealousy over Brita (and a publicist named Bill played by Edmond O'Brien), that threatens to rival Othello's equally unfounded jealousy over Desdemona. Is someone going to pay the ultimate price for Anthony's madness, and who will it be? A Double Life has a famous star -- Colman won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance -- and director, but the movie is successful neither as drama nor suspense film. The characters in the script by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin are too superficial to make us actually care about anyone, and there is no real tension in the movie, Shelley Winters plays a waitress that Colman dallies with, but this very good actress is hardly given enough to work with in her two brief scenes with the star. Signe Hasso comes off better as Desdemona than Colman does in his okay but often hammy interpretation of Othello. There are people who really love this movie (they go on about it as if were along the lines of he actual Othello) and Colman's performance, but I think Colman has given better performances in much better pictures than this. Betsy Blair has a nice bit as a hopeful actress, and Ray Collins, Whit Bissell, and Joe Sawyer also have minor supporting roles. Cukor has directed better melodramas than this, including Gaslight and A Woman's Face. In the final sequence Hasso seems to be indulging in a bit of silent movie acting! I believe Colman's Oscar was given for his body of work. This bears some similarities to the earlier The Brighton Strangler, which some may actually consider the better movie..

Verdict: See a performance of Othello instead. **.


Anonymous said...

Betsy Blair's turn in this is really fun to watch. She's got a unique intensity.

William said...

Yes, that's a good way of putting it. She really stands out.

Thanks for your comment!

angelman66 said...

Sorry to hear this one is not as good as Cukor's other great melodramas like A Woman's Face...but I do love Shelley Winters so I would still like to see this one.
- C

William said...

Well, I can't say "don't blink or you'll miss her," but her role is small and I suspect a lot was left on the cutting room floor.