Saturday, 21 July 2018

On Italian DVD - Not DARLING, HOW COULD YOU! (Mitchell Leisen, USA, 1951) but WOMAN OBSESSED (Henry Hathaway, USA, 1959)

So, settle down for an evening's viewing.

An unseen Mitchell Leisen film Darling, How Could You! which the Wikipedia entry describes thus:

Darling, How Could You! (1951) is a comedy film directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Joan Fontaine and John Lund. The script is based on the James Barrie play Alice Sit-by-the-Fire.

The copy was bought at the beloved Dischi Alberti on Borgo San Lorenzo in Florence and was published by the dreaded Golem Video, the company that puts out dozens of American titles each year and whose quality control does not run to putting the original English-language title anywhere on the cover or the disc itself. This one went by the title La Mia Donna E Un Angelo. 

There it was, unseen Leisen as  I said, with the extra added attraction of a music score by the Great Man Friedrich Hollaender, he of the inspirational "Falling in Love Again", "See What the Boys in the Back Room will Have" and those three magnificent songs in Billy Wilder's A Foreign Affair (1948), "Black Market", "Illusions" and "the Ruins of Berlin", all sung by Marlene Dietrich.

But not to be, the title that pops up when you pop the DVD in the player is Woman Obsessed, produced and written by Sydney Boehm and directed by Henry Hathaway in 1959, made the year after star Susan Hayward won an Oscar for I Want to Live. 

Now Woman Obsessed  is not entirely without interest. In the manner of the day Hayward plays a young wife who not long after the movie starts is widowed when her husband is killed fighting a forest fire. Notwithstanding her loss and the trials and tribulations of running a farm, or at least about an acre of it that we see, she never looks other than perfectly made up and doesn't have a hair out of place ever. Still the same trope was applied to Nicole Kidman in Cold Mountain forty five years or so later so some things are really ingrained in the Hollywood psyche. Actually the title on the movie is also a bit enigmatic. Has it simply left off the word "A" thus describing the Susan Hayward character or is it more descriptive of the male character Fred Carter's state of mind and thus is properly titled as "Woman Obsessed"  in which cases in some places there would be a hyphen between the two words. But I digress....

Cue the arrival of enigmatic, but occasionally violent, Fred, played as an Irish-accented farm hand by Stephen Boyd, fresh from his triumph in Ben-Hur. He shows up without notice and starts chopping wood and quickly makes himself indispensable around the place. They marry but her son isn't happy and then she's not happy and (Spoiler Alert) she loses a baby conceived in a marital rape. Oh, on and on it goes for 98 minutes until the (Spoiler Alert) happy ending.

I would have preferred to take my chances with Darling, How Could You!  and Mitchell Leisen, Friedrich Hollaender, John Fontaine, even John Lund. Bad one Golem Video.

Final NB. You have to read the fine print on the poster to realise that Susan Hayward did not win an Academy Award for this picture.

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