Monday, December 06, 2010

Proud and the Profane (1956)

This movie has the feel of a movie that wants to say something profound about the human condition. It tries very hard. It has appropriately weighty speeches, but really, it's just a lousy excuse of a movie. I did not like this film much. It was condescending, contrived, full of varying degrees of unlikeable people behaving badly, and had a lame excuse of an ending.

It's an unlikely, unpleasant, and unromantic love story, starring two very fine actors, Deborah Kerr and William Holden, who get to do nothing worthy of either of them. She plays a woman who's lost her husband in the war. She joins the Red Cross hoping to get to where he was and find out what happened to him. William Holden's character is first rate jerk who decides she's the one attractive enough on the island to go after. He lies about her husband to get close to her. He is a truly uncouth lout with no good qualities whatsoever. In one of the few honest scenes in the movies, Deborah Kerr's character actually admits he's a boorish jerk and she should dump him, but gosh, he's still attractive despite all of that! He honks his car horn and she's out of there like a flash to go out with him again. What??? Yeah yeah yeah, movies adore "opposites attract " scenarios and all that jazz, but this movie goes beyond that into ridiculous.

And Deborah Kerr's character is not exactly a sterling example either. She's cowardly and weak (clearly, or she wouldn't have let this loser of a man near her), and begs off a lot of work in the Red Cross because of her selfishness. We find out more about her character later, in a moment that's supposed to be eye-opening, but you can see it coming a mile away and as with the whole plot, the scene's set up is convenient and contrived instead of organic and natural.

Neither lead character seems remotely real. They're like overdrawn caricatures, put there to pound you over the head and make some point about Good, Bad, Redemption, Truth, Honesty (and yes, this movie wants them to be capped because they're Important, don't'cha know) that, frankly, eluded me because the characters are just so awful that 1) I don't buy any message about them, and 2) I don't give a flying hoot what happens to them. Not even my beloved William Holden. (Well, actually, I kind of really wanted his character to get knifed in one part and killed in another, but I got cheated even of that.)

However, this film does have one very bright spot: Thelma Ritter. She is absolutely marvelous! (when is she not??) She is so good and solid and entertaining, and basically everything the rest of the characters are not, that she single-handedly very nearly makes the movie worth sitting through, just for her. Considering what dreck the rest of the film is, that's saying a lot. Ms. Ritter -- my hat's off to you!!

But as far as William Holden movies go, this one is down near the bottom of my list.

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