Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Two Faced

We're having a mini-Mitchum festival, starting with Angel Face (1952), an Otto Preminger noir co-starring Jean Simmons.

It starts with Robert Mitchum and a buddy driving their ambulance up to a Beverly Hills mansion, where a woman has almost suffocated when the gas in her fireplace is left on. Her husband (Herbert Marshall) found her in time. As Mitchum is leaving he sees Simmons playing piano, and they have a little scene. She follows him to his late-night diner, and gets him to break a date with his girl, then they go out dancing.

You see, he is a vet with no money and plans to open a racing shop. Simmons is a poor little rich girl whose father is a blocked writer, and her step-mother is a cold bitch who bankrolls them at the expense of their dignity. But she likes Mitchum, and lets him know she can funnel some money his way if he sticks around.

You know how in these noirs, you look at the femmes fatales and think, who would be dumb enough to fall for that? Maybe she's pretty, maybe there's money in it, but you can tell she's evil and you, at least, would not fall for it one bit. Well, Mitchum doesn't fall for it either. This is that great noir where the dupe is completely wised up. He might play along for what he can get, but he never trusts her one bit.

OK, that's enough spoilers. There's a lot that happens here, a lot of it pretty wild. Also, while Mitchum is being Mitchum, Simmons is gorgeous, sophisticated, young, frightened, alone, and utterly mad. I've seen stories that Howard Hughes made this movie to punish her, and got Preminger to mistreat her on set - pretty believable, but they wound up with an amazing document.

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