Two-Faced Woman (1941, George Cukor)

Two-Faced Woman is the story of a successful New York magazine editor, played by Melvyn Douglas, who marries his ski instructor (Greta Garbo) while on vacation. It’s a whirlwind courtship, with one condition of the marriage (for Garbo) being Douglas is giving up New York. Turns out he’s not and off he goes to New York.

Once in New York, Douglas keeps putting off returning to Garbo. Fed up, Garbo comes to the city and finds Douglas out on the town with mistress Constance Bennett. Garbo just wants to go home, but then she’s about to be discovered and decides instead to pretend to be her own twin sister. Hence the film’s title.

While one Garbo is “proper,” the other is a “vamp.” She goes out with Douglas’s business partner, Roland Young, and attracts Douglas (out on a date with Bennett). Then he finds out she’s really his wife and spends the rest of the movie tormenting her.

There are some Catholic Church-mandated (yes, really) changes to the film, which make Douglas’s arc a lot more manipulative in regards to Garbo, but the film still ignores the Bennett situation. The extant version has Douglas dumping Bennett to prime Garbo for mental abuse. Without the changes, he’s just done catting around with Bennett and ready to cat around with his wife’s twin sister.

Needless to say, S.N. Behrman, Salka Viertel, and George Oppenheimer’s script doesn’t have much going for it. Ruth Gordon–as Douglas’s assistant and Garbo’s confidant–has some great scenes, but it’s more in Gordon’s performance than anything else. It’s the presence of the scenes and Gordon. Gordon and Garbo’s relationship is about the only positive to come out of Two-Faced Woman and it seems entirely accidental.

Cukor’s direction, as far as composition goes, is fine. Joseph Ruttenberg’s photography is solid. The matte paintings of the ski lodge are distractingly weak. Cukor’s direction of actors is similarly fine. He doesn’t do anyone any favors, but he doesn’t hurt anyone too much either.

The performances are generally fine or better. Douglas is not. Even without the mandated revisions, his arc in the script is a mess. He starts the film is a doofus, then gets to romance Garbo. In their first scene together, Douglas can’t stop pawing at her and there’s some energy and brewing of real chemistry. But then it’s back to work and the movie’s then double deception and no more real scenes for Douglas and Garbo. No more chemistry.

Garbo’s good. Her parts aren’t well-written, but she tries and sometimes succeeds. The movie’s tone is all off though, thanks to the edits, so it’s hard to know if she’s succeeding because of something revised or something intentional.

There’s a great ski finale. The script runs out of ways to prolong the third act and instead there’s a ski chase sequence. It’s lots of physical humor and expert stunt skiing. Almost like a reward for sitting through more now humorless scenes of Douglas teasing Garbo. Again, maybe they were humorless before.

Either way, Two-Faced Woman doesn’t do anyone any favors. It does Garbo the most disservice and was her last film, though she didn’t intend to retire because of it. But even if it wasn’t responsible for Garbo’s retirement, you wouldn’t really blame her if it were.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by George Cukor; screenplay by S.N. Behrman, Salka Viertel, and George Oppenheimer, based on a play by Ludwig Fulda; director of photography, Joseph Ruttenberg; edited by George Boemler; music by Bronislau Kaper; produced by Gottfried Reinhardt; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Greta Garbo (Karin), Melvyn Douglas (Larry Blake), Constance Bennett (Griselda Vaughn), Roland Young (O.O. Miller), Robert Sterling (Dick Williams), and Ruth Gordon (Miss Ellis).



THIS POST IS PART OF THE GRETA GARBO BLOGATHON HOSTED BY CRYSTAL OF IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD.


RELATED

Advertisements

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, John English and William Witney), Chapter 10: Doom Ship

There’s nothing nice to say about Doom Ship’s opening cliffhanger resolution other than it’s short and leads into an energetic fight scene for Frank Coghlan Jr. More than ever, Coghlan’s got the wrong timing for turning into Tom Tyler’s Captain Marvel this chapter. Unlike the times when Coghlan’s been over his head, in Doom Ship he gets to play the hero to good result.

The action quickly moves aboard the titular Doom Ship. The remaining archaeologists discover they need to go back to Thailand and since no one trusts one another, they all head back. They set sail same day. Ocean transport is very convenient, apparently.

The ship sequence is probably the serial’s best lengthy action stuff so far. There’s a storm going and the ship crashes into a reef. Can Coghlan and company get off before it sinks?

Lots of action, lots of tension, lots of good effects. And Louise Currie not just getting to be damsel in distress, but entirely unconscious damsel in distress. Far be it for Doom Ship not to fall into at least one Captain Marvel trope.

The excellent special effects and tight pacing make Doom Ship a fine chapter. Although it does seem to be an aside, an exercise in filmmaking competence, rather than a ambition ramp up for the serial’s finale.

CREDITS

Directed by John English and William Witney; screenplay by Ronald Davidson, Norman S. Hall, Arch Heath, Joseph F. Poland, and Sol Shor, based on the comic book by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker; director of photography, William Nobles; edited by William P. Thompson and Edward Todd; music by Cy Feuer; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Frank Coghlan Jr. (Billy Batson), Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Whitey Murphy), Louise Currie (Betty Wallace), Kenne Duncan (Barnett), Robert Strange (John Malcolm), Harry Worth (Prof. Luther Bentley), and John Davidson (Tal Chotali).


RELATED

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, John English and William Witney), Chapter 9: Dead Man’s Trap

Dead Man’s Trap is, I guess, a bridging chapter. It depends on what’s next. Otherwise it’s a treading water chapter.

It picks up from the previous chapter’s “cliffhanger” (quotations because it’s more of a “beware the cliff 150 meters away” than anything else) and gives George Pembroke quite a bit to do for a while. He’s good, the regular guy captured by the Scorpion and then tortured until he talks. Pembroke’s pure joy at Tom Tyler coming to his rescue is one of Captain Marvel’s most honest moments.

There’s some convoluted machinations to get Louise Currie in danger and to give Frank Coghlan Jr. a chance to Captain Marvel out. But there’s no tension. It’s weird, coming off a strong chapter, to see the serial just go back to business as usual.

The cliffhanger’s kind of cool, but there’s no chance it’ll have a good resolution so who cares.

Three quarters done, it’s still impossible to guess how Captain Marvel is going to wrap up, quality-wise. The actors are fine, usually likable (though Currie’s a little dense here), but the serial itself spins its wheels too much.

CREDITS

Directed by John English and William Witney; screenplay by Ronald Davidson, Norman S. Hall, Arch Heath, Joseph F. Poland, and Sol Shor, based on the comic book by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker; director of photography, William Nobles; edited by William P. Thompson and Edward Todd; music by Cy Feuer; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Frank Coghlan Jr. (Billy Batson), Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Whitey Murphy), Louise Currie (Betty Wallace), Kenne Duncan (Barnett), Robert Strange (John Malcolm), Harry Worth (Prof. Luther Bentley), John Davidson (Tal Chotali), and George Pembroke (Dr. Stephen Lang).


RELATED

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, John English and William Witney), Chapter 8: Boomerang

Boomerang is the best chapter of Captain Marvel yet. Not because of Captain Marvel action–there’s some, but it’s perfunctory–rather it’s the plotting. Boomerang springboards off something in the previous chapter (unrelated to the cliffhanger), sort of narratively hopping over something. That something being the predictable, tedious, though visually interesting cliffhanger resolution. Boomerang then assumes a traditional three act structure, which the serial hasn’t been doing to this point. It’s kind of strange, but also excellent.

The good guys have a plan, they learn something, they execute their plan, things go wrong, resolution, second resolution. It’s exciting, but without any big effects sequences. Frank Coghlan Jr. only says the magic word to get out of immediate trouble. It’s a thankless role for Tom Tyler. He gets to have a little fun–albeit cruel fun–and fun is long overdo. It makes him more sympathetic, even though his part is still a mess.

Coghlan’s amateur sleuths–William ‘Billy’ Benedict and Louise Currie–both get some decent moments. Their characters have to interact in a way the actors get to define the characters. They’re not solely around to be functional in Boomerang. They get to show personality.

Good supporting work from George Pembroke this chapter too.

It’s not really a bridging chapter because it never resolves its opening problem. Coghlan and company thought they’d discovered something big, only for its veracity to get delayed… presumably until next chapter. Boomerang’s something though. It’s breathtaking in its pragmatism.

CREDITS

Directed by John English and William Witney; screenplay by Ronald Davidson, Norman S. Hall, Arch Heath, Joseph F. Poland, and Sol Shor, based on the comic book by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker; director of photography, William Nobles; edited by William P. Thompson and Edward Todd; music by Cy Feuer; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Frank Coghlan Jr. (Billy Batson), Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Whitey Murphy), Louise Currie (Betty Wallace), Kenne Duncan (Barnett), Robert Strange (John Malcolm), Harry Worth (Prof. Luther Bentley), John Davidson (Tal Chotali), and George Pembroke (Dr. Stephen Lang).


RELATED

superior film blogging