Hello, everybody. Your classic movie guys back again with the final installment in our six-part series devoted to Allan Dwan.
Fred Lombardi is a friend of Classic Movie Chat and we’ve been pleased to highlight his book --Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios.
Yesterday Fred discussed the two Westerns Dwan directed in the mid 50′s. Today he’ll conclude with the two melodramas which followed. Here’s Fred.
“Each of the four major films Allan Dwan made with producer Benedict Bogeaus had a triangular relationship at its center.
The genders would alternate with each of the films so that in SILVER LODE the lead characters are a man and two women and in TENNESSEE’S PARTNER they were two males and one female (John Payne, Ronald Reagan, Rhonda Fleming).
In the 1956 film noir SLIGHTLY SCARLET, Payne is once more the lead. Payne extends his aid to the reform mayoralty candidate running against an administration tainted with corruption. But Payne’s real aim is to run out of town the gangster controlling the gambling operations so that like his character of Tennessee in the earlier movie, he can run the gambling in the city.
Intertwined with him in the story are two sisters. Barbara Stanwyck was to have played one of them but she was forced by an injury to bow out before production began. While her loss was regrettable, Dwan achieved the coup of having the two sexiest red-headed stars of the period, Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl, play the sisters.
Fleming portrays the social-climbing secretary to the reform mayor while Dahl is her kleptomaniac sister just released from prison.
The movie was adapted from James M. Cain’s novella, LOVE’S LOVELY COUNTERFEIT. This is one of Cain’s lesser works and Robert Blees’ script is actually superior to the book, achieving far more complexity.
SLIGHTLY SCARLET is also one of the best film noirs shot in color and was photographed by John Alton who had helped shape the visual style of the black and white noirs of the late 1940s.
Alton, however, had won an Oscar for AN AMERICAN IN PARIS but he shot only the ballet sequence with its garish lighting changes. Alton’s work with Dwan was usually more restrained, but on SLIGHTLY SCARLET he achieved some stylish lighting effects.
Bogeaus signed a contract with 20th-Century Fox, and achieved another casting coup for Dwan in signing Oscar winners Anthony Quinn and Ray Milland to star in his next film, THE RIVER’S EDGE (1957).
In SLIGHTLY SCARLET Dahl violated her parole in getting arrested for shoplifting while Payne unsuccessfully tried to leave town with a suitcase full of money. At the outset of THE RIVER’S EDGE, we learn that Quinn married Debra Paget after getting her freed from prison and put on parole.
Milland is her returning former boyfriend who is carrying a suitcase of stolen money. Paget’s hair is also dyed red.
Unlike the previous three films, the three principals are the only major characters in the movie. It is the eternal triangle pure and simple as the trio try to reach the Mexican border evading the police. Quinn has agreed to act as a guide to his absconding wife and her lover but their flight becomes a struggle between the two men for Paget’s affections.
The film ends with less of a plot twist than a character twist that crystallizes the moral journey of this quartet of movies.