the only other picture i’ve seen by goulding is nightmare alley and it had a similar emotional arc. they both start off interestingly enough only to become disarmingly prosaic, overly sentimental, and/or seemingly predictable; but, in the end, both are shockingly resonant. i’m not sure if this is a stroke of pure luck or if goulding has an uncanny (and unconventional) ability to disarm the audience’s preconceptions only to turn them right on top of the audience later on. that is, goulding somehow brings your guard down in each instance by allowing you to think you know where the film is going and what you’re going to feel in the end. i found myself very struck by the emotional power of the film’s ending in spite of my earlier detachment from the emotional center of the film.
bette davis and george brent are quite good in the leading roles. i really don’t see actresses of the same caliber as davis, stanwyck, bacall, k. hepburn, bergman, crawford, etc. these days. you could say meryl streep or glen close, some might throw in names like renee zellweger or nicole kidman, but contemporary great actresses aren’t as great and aren’t as many. it’s odd, but it seems that women were getting better roles 40-70 years ago. bogart was so-so as an irish stable hand. his accent was poor and his character wasn’t very well drawn. it was still an early role for him. the woman who played ann also did only a so-so job.
overall not the strongest film, but two performances and a great ending made it worth while.