Thursday, October 9, 2014

Flashback... What a Feeling

A movie that over the years has received some notoriety for its narrative structure shows up late this afternoon on TCM: The Locket, at 6:30 PM.

The movie starts off with a bunch of people entering one of those fancy apartment buildings in New York City. They're going to see he wedding of John Willis (Gene Raymond) to his fiancée Nancy (Laraine Day). One of the wedding guests, hoewver, is an uninvited guest, and that's because he doesn't want the wedding to go off until after he's spoken now -- and there's no way he's going to hold his peace forever. This man corners Willis and then begins to tell his story. Cue the flashback....

The man is psychiatrist Harry Blair (Brian Aherne). Some time back, while he was vacationing in Florida, he met Nancy, and fell in love with her. They got married, and returned to New York where the good doctor starts one of those fashionable psychiatric practices. However, he's not ready for one of the people who comes into his office one day. That man, an artist named Norman Clyde (Robert Mitchum), claims that Nancy is the cause of an innocent man winding up on death row! Cue another flashback....

Norman, the artist, was working as an art instructor a couple of years earlier when who should walk into his class to take lessons but Nancy? Nancy is working as a secretary for the wealthy businessman Bonner (Ricardo Cortez). Since by this time Norman has fallen in love with Nnacy, she's going to do a favor for him: she's going to get get her boss to show one of Norman's works at one of the private showings that Bonner, a patron of the arts, runs in his lavish apartment. That's great, until a bracelet goes missing at the showing. Norman and Nancy go back to his apartment, and sure enough, he finds the bracelet in her purse. Nancy is apparently a kleptomaniac, and boy does she have a story to explain why she is the way she is. Cue the flashback....

When Nancy was a kid (played by Sharyn Moffett), she was the daughter of a maid in one of those fancy apartment buildings in New York. The people who employed Nancy's mother had a daughter about Nancy's age, and the two were about as close friends as you can expect the boss' daughter and the help's daughter to be. No class differences for them. The parents, of course, see things differently. The daughter gives young Nancy a locket, but it's a gift the parents don't approve, and they demand the locket be returned, eventually accusing Nancy of being a thief when the locket goes missing. It's that incident which scarred Nancy emotionally and turned her into a compulsive jewelry thief, apparently.

Finally, the action starts to move forward again, and we eventually get back to the wedding, although there are a few surprises along the way, with the biggest surprise of all being saved for the wedding ceremony itself. That part of the story I won't give away, however.

With all those flahsbacks-within-flashbacks, you'd think the story is difficult to follow, but that's not really the case. It's not the way the story is structured that's the problem, it's the story itself. I couldn't help but think that Nancy would have gotten into serious legal trouble before she ever started working for Bonner, and certainly wouldn't have stayed clean long enough to get to the altar with a wealthy family like the Willises. And you'd think somebody in the famliy would have investigated Nancy to the point of discovering her past. The ending is one that I found unbelievable and a bit unsatisfying.

Still, the actors do the best they can with this material, and none of them do anything to detract from the movie. The same goes for the director. So The Locket is absolutely another of those movies that you need to give a viewing for yourself, because many of you will probably have a higher opinion of it than I do. It's also available from the Warner Archive.

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