Thursday, January 5, 2012

More than a moment

Esther Williams starred in The Unguarded Moment, which aired last May when she was TCM's Star of the Month. Tomorrow at 11:15 AM, as part of a birthday salute to Loretta Young, TCM is airing The Unguarded Hour.

The Unguarded Hour is a movie that might remind you of Evelyn Prentice. Young plays Lady Helen, a British woman who is the wife of Sir Alan (Franchot Tone). Sir Alan is a prominent prosecuting attorney, and is in line to become the British equivalent of the Attorney General. There's a small problem, however. It seems as though Alan had a relationship with a married woman many years earlier, and there are some letters from that relationship. Blackmailer Hugh (Henry Daniell) has obtained these letters, and is looking for a substantial sum of money for them, or else he'll make them public. Doing that would scuttle Sir Alan's chances at a promotion, so Lady Helen decides to pay the blackmailer.

Paying the blackmailer involves going to an out-of-the-way location near some of the cliffs that overlook the English Channel. While making her way around the paths, Lady Helen runs across a couple who are arguing, but in which the husband is trying to make his wife watch her step lest she falls over the cliff. Sure enough, the dumb broad falls over the cliff to her death, and the husband gets prosecuted. Unsurprisingly, that prosecution is handled by Sir Alan to make the story more interesting. The defendant claims there was this mysterious female witness, and dammit there certainly was! But for that witness to come out, she would have to reveal she is the wife of the prosecutor, and that she witnessed the accident because she was on her way to pay off a blackmailer.

The Unguarded Hour is a melodramatic movie of the sort that seemed to be popular in the 1930s, as there are a lot of them. Nowadays, I think such stuff would be straight-to-TV on a channel such as Lifetime. To be fair, the movie is reasonably well made, with Young, Tone, and the rest of the cast of MGM regulars doing a creditable job. The only problem is that the story is so frustratingly obnoxious. It's not quite as bad as Madame X or any of its variants, but it's got an ending that will probably be making you scream at your TV.

The Unguarded Hour hasn't been released to DVD, so if you want to see it, you'll have to watch it on TCM.

No comments: