Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 1949. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Enterprise Productions. Screenplay by Arthur Laurents, based on the novel Wild Calendar by Libbie Block. Cinematography by Lee Garmes. Produced by Wolfgang Reinhardt. Music by Friedrich Hollaender. Production Design by Frank Paul Sylos. Costume Design by Orry-Kelly. Film Editing by Robert Parrish.
Barbara Bel Geddes graduates from car-hop to salesgirl model after a rigorous course of charm school. Reluctantly agreeing to attend the party of a millionaire (Robert Ryan) on a yacht, and everything that that implies, she finds herself in the way of the host and puts her charm school training to use. He, to infuriate his psychiatrist among other reasons, immediately marries her and subjects her to a degrading, miserable life that forces her to reconsider her opinion on money buying happiness. Eventually unable to bear her misery, she leaves him and takes a job as a receptionist for a New York City doctor (James Mason) with whom she falls in love. Like most films by Max Ophuls, this film never really gets you to care deeply for its protagonists, but Ophuls is too honest about this to ever let it be a problem; instead you’re transfixed by the gorgeously subtle camera work and elegant sets. As it turns out, the great European maestro was equally adept at putting together a fine film noir as he was the grand period pieces he was famous for. Bel Geddes wants too much to be Joan Fontaine in the lead role, but she does a fine job carrying the picture. Look for Barbara Billingsley in an early career bit.