Saturday, September 24, 2011

You could fill Madison Square Garden!

I hadn't looked at the Fox Movie Channel schedule before writing my brief post about tonight's TCM repeats. If I had, I would have noticed that The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing is airing tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM on the Fox Movie Channel.

The movie is based on a true story that happened about 50 years before the movie was made; that is, the first decade of the 20th century. Ray Milland plays Stanford White, who was a prominent architect in New York City whose buildings included one of the previous incarnations of Madison Square Garden. He meets showgirl Evelyn Nesbit (Joan Collins) and is taken by her. But, he's got two problems. One is the fact that he's got a wife of his own, and will have some difficulty in obtaining a divorce. The other is that there's another suitor for Miss Nesbit. That other suitor is Harry Thaw. Thaw was born in Pittsubrgh to a coal baron, and is in New York trying to get himself societied up if you will. He sees Nesbit and is taken by her as well. After all, who wouldn't be?

Much love triangle stuff follows, during which time we discover that Harry is quite the jealous man. He wants what he feels is rightfully his, which is both a place in higher society, and Evelyn. Thanks the the previous Mrs. White, Stanford is eventually unable to have her, leaving Harry to marry her. They don't all live happily ever after, however. Stanford still wants Evelyn, and when he tries to see Evelyn again, it sends Harry into such a jealous rage that he kills Stanford! Worse, Evelyn eventually has to testify at the trial.

It's real-life material that should make for a great story, but unfortunately The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing falls a bit flat. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that the real-life Evelyn Nesbit was still alive at the time, aged only about 70; not only that, but she served as an advisor for the movie. The presumptive result is that the film is slanted in the direction Evelyn Nesbit wanted it slanted. That's a bit of a shame, because the real story should be better. Not only that, but it's obvious that Fox went to great pains to try to make a good movie. It's filmed in Technicolor and Cinemascope, and has a look as though a great deal of attention was paid to the set design and the costumes. As for the actors, they all give creditable performances despite being hamstrung by a subpar script. If you only remember Joan Collins from her days on Dynasty, which is how I first got to know her, you might be surprised to discover that she's not a bad actress.

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