Mar. 31, 2011
47. Detective Story (1951)
Starring Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix, Cathy O'Donnell
Produced & Directed by William Wyler
Plot: "On one day in the 21st Precinct squad room, assorted characters form a backdrop for the troubles of hard-nosed Detective Jim McLeod." (from IMDb)
Anybody want to watch a really depressing movie? Not tender tear-jerker type depressing, but one—to quote the film—that makes you want to just "dry up and die"? Well, then I have the film for you!
Maybe I just feel this way because I was expecting a different type of movie (I thought this would be a mystery!). I do think that it is an intelligent film (based on a stage play) and that there are probably some kernels of truth/things of merit in it, but for some reason it just struck a wrong cord with me.
First off, the acting. Kirk Douglas is just a bit much here. I guess it’s mainly his delivery that I’m not a fan of. I like Eleanor Parker in The Sound of Music, but in the films I have seen of hers in the last few months, she seems to play a very tormented type of woman. The way her face paralyzes into this ‘tormented’ expression is, again, just a bit much. Those were the performances that I disliked—feel free to disagree. I don’t want to insult anyone’s favorites if you happen to love Kirk and Eleanor. Please enlighten me! :)
Thankfully, most of the other performances were really good (if a little stage-y). I especially liked Lee Grant (her exit was hilarious and the best part of the movie, in my opinion) and William Bendix. As a side note, it was also refreshing to see a film of this period that featured an African American (albeit in a small part) who was not portrayed as a racial stereotype.
For some reason, I seem to either love or hate a lot of William Wyler movies. I certainly did not love this one. But if you are a fan of film noir, watching characters’ lives unravel, and unhappy endings, this just might be for you.
Trivia and observations:
- Cathy O'Donnell, who played Susan Carmichael, was producer-director William Wyler's sister-in-law. Her husband, Robert Wyler, co-wrote the screenplay.
- I couldn’t help but wonder if Lee Grant’s line "will they shave my head?" was a nod to costar Eleanor Parker’s film Caged (1950), which came out the year before. In that film, Parker’s character gets her head shaved. But maybe I am just reading too much into it?
P.S. Tomorrow is the last day to vote in this month’s poll.