Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
USA, 1947. Kanin Productions. Screenplay by Ruth Gordon, Garson Kanin. Cinematography by Milton R. Krasner. Produced by Michael Kanin. Music by Miklos Rozsa. Production Design by Harry Horner. Costume Design by Travis Banton, Yvonne Wood. Film Editing by Robert Parrish.
Ronald Colman plays a famous Broadway actor who struggles with detaching from the job, frequently co-starring on stage with Signe Hasso after having romanced, married and divorced her (all depending on the mood that his latest role has put him in). Following the success of a social comedy in which he played a lovelorn butler, Colman accepts his next challenge despite his fear of the role’s darkness: Shakespeare’s Othello, opposite Hasso as Desdemona. Performances continue, the production is a huge success and runs for over a year as Colman is slowly taken over by the character, becoming a jealous tyrant who suspects women of treachery and infidelity even when he hardly knows them.
Sounds like a fun idea for a film and one that the usually stalwart writing team of Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin could write in their sleep, but between their plastic understanding of theatre and acting (Colman’s character isn’t a method actor, he’s a psychopath) and George Cukor’s unmotivated direction, this one is an undeniable dud. Colman’s performance doesn’t help much either, a gorgeous movie star and elegant charmer who doesn’t have the layers required for the role (and whose career-making performances, to be clear, never required them). Shelley Winters appears as a rough waitress at an Italian food restaurant willing to do whatever it takes to make it on the stage, and, other than the beautiful cinematography and terrific art direction, she is the film’s most memorable element.
Academy Awards: Best Actor (Ronald Colman); Best Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
Nominations: Best Diretor (George Cukor); Best Original Screenplay
Golden Globe Award: Best Actor (Ronald Colman)
Venice Film Festival: In Competition