Saturday, December 3, 2016
Or: How We Learned to Appreciate Schmaltz
In our opinion, melodramas are, like haggis, an acquired taste. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to watch melodramas, much like people force themselves to go to the dentist or eat brussels sprouts. However, there is such a thing as a good melodrama, and three were released in 1956 that are some of the most compelling of the genre. These films feature talented cast members and exceptional cinematography. More importantly, each film poses a crucial question that tantalizes us until the last scene.
Here, then, are three underrated melodramas that deserve to be better known.
The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit
Gregory Peck is a man who can’t make his peace with his actions during World War II, including an extra-marital affair he had while he was serving in Italy. Jennifer Jones is superb as Peck’s wife whose dissatisfaction with their home is masking her frustration with him.
The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit doesn’t have the most structured script – there are a lot of plot holes – but we’re dying to know the answer to one question: How will Jones react when she learns the truth about Peck’s affair?
Written on the Wind
This film is, for us, a guilty pleasure. Written on the Wind isa very juicy tale about money, power and love.
Wealthy but troubled Robert Stack marries Lauren Bacall, much to the chagrin of Rock Hudson, who is secretly in love with her. In turn, Hudson is pursued by the, uh,“assertive” Dorothy Malone.
It’s a ridiculous plot, but we are entranced by one overriding question: How far will any of these people go to get what they want?
The Catered Affair
This is one of our favourite melodramas. It stars Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine as a blue-collar couple who have been forced to live frugally all their married life.
But when their daughter (Debbie Reynolds) announces she’s getting married, Davis wants to spend their life’s savings on a lavish wedding. Borgnine, on the other hand, wants to use the money to start his own taxi business.
A Catered Affair is a character-driven film that quietly sneaks up on you. The heart-breaking question here is: Will the tension between Davis and Borgnine ruin Reynolds’chance at happiness?
If you’re not much of a melodrama fan, we recommend giving at least one of these films a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.