Saturday, November 13, 2010
Screen Gem Saturdays: Susan Hayward—Back Street
When it comes to 1960’s tearjerkers, few are as adept at getting the waterworks going as the 1961 Susan Hayward film, “Back Street.” This glossy Technicolor movie was produced by Ross Hunter, who seemed to have the franchise of weepies under lock and key at Universal. Susan never looked better than in this film where she is outfitted in a number of beautiful gowns by Jean Louis. Not surprisingly, the film received an Oscar nomination for Best Color Costume Design. Naturally, Susan's character (Rae Smith) is a fashion designer which shamelessly allows a few extra outfits to be shown to her adoring fans!
I wonder if these were actually Jean Louis’ sketches shown in Hayward’s little bedroom studio:
John Gavin, who also wooed Lana Turner in Hunter’s “Imitation of Life,” is on board to play the perfectly chiseled romantic lead. Vera Miles really hams it up as the alcoholic villainess. Although having an affair with a married man was unacceptable in 1960, Hayward’s indiscretion is allowable because Vera is a nagging boozy mess of a broad! We learn this through her drunken stumble at a fancy-smancy Italian restaurant that puts Gavin, Miles, and Hayward all together in one serendipitous moment: what are the chances??
Hayward shoots Gavin a glance that tells the audience that she sympathizes with his plight and will continue to be his own personal doormat until he can get rid of the shrew.
Frank Skinner’s lush score, freely borrowing from a number of classical pieces, is guaranteed to wring out a few more tears. One of the most emotional scenes is when Rae Smith makes a tearful phone call back home to the family in Nebraska at Thanksgiving after her honey has stood her up again.
And the ending...if you’re not weeping profusely, you might want to check your pulse!
Sadly, this film has yet to make it to DVD; VHS copies can be difficult (and expensive) to find. However, I highly recommend it! Follow my updates on Twitter. To see more Hollywood Movie & TV photos, visit my regular website.