Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's not just fury

I blogged about Fury back in August 2008, and about The Fury back in May 2011. Now it's time to blog about The Secret Fury, which is airing tomorrow morning at 11:30 AM on TCM.

Robert Ryan stars as David McLean, who at the start of the movie is crashing a wedding. At least, he shows up at the wedding, and nobody seems to recognize him. That's kind of odd, since he's actually the groom. The bride is the fairly well-off Ellen Ewing, played by Claudette Colbert. Eventually everything gets straightened out and the bride and groom are about to take their vows. But when the minister gives the spiel about anybody knowing any reason why the two shouldn't be married should speak now or forever hold their piece, somebody actually gets up! He says that Ellen had in fact been married some months earlier in Riverview, a town a couple hours' drive away. As such, there's no way she can get married. And before anybody can question the guy, he gets up and leaves!

What's a putatively married woman to do? Well, she claims that she has no knowledge of this supposed wedding, and she should know, since she would have been there if she had gotten married. So it's off to Riverview. Certainly, this whole thing will prove to be nonsense, as there was obviously no wedding. The only problem is, they get to Riverview, and it turns out there is in fact a marriage license there and evidence that Ellen did in fact get married on the day in question. And when they go to the honeymoon hotel, there's somebody there who claims to have seen the bride and groom. Why is somebody trying to drive Ellen mad, like Ingrid Bergman's character in Gaslight? Eventually, Ellen finds the putative groom (Dave Barbour). This doesn't solve the problem, however; it only makes things worse. He winds up dead from Ellen's gun, which winds up at Ellen's feet!

The first half of the movie sets up a very interesting premise, but it also backs itself into a corner: how are they going to get out of this corner with an ending that is both a) plausible, and b) satisfying to the viewer? In that regard, the movie gets a bit maddening as it goes on. Robert Ryan, from the moment he shows up at the wedding, you expect him to be darker than he's shown himself to be. And seriously, how could the people around her not know about him? It's not as if she's getting eloped; this looks like a pretty elaborate wedding. That much planning, and you'd think they would have met the groom sometime. The whole scene at the first husband's place also comes across as quite odd. That all having been said, there's a lot in this film to recommend. Robert Ryan and Claudette Colbert are both playing against type, which makes their performances fascinating to watch. There's also Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz) as a maid in the honeymoon hotel. Most of her work was either on TV or Broadway, so it's fun to watch her get to play a movie character, especially in a mystery/suspense film. So although The Secret Fury doesn't quite live up to the bar it sets for itself in the first half, it's an interesting movie that's well worth watching.

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