Monday, May 7, 2012

My Forbidden Past (1951)

“Beautiful figure underneath those clothes, I imagine.”
“And you thought it wasn’t worth waiting for.”

            There are so many classic films that I wish were available on DVD. My Forbidden Past starring Ava Gardner and Robert Mitchum is one of the several classic films I wish I could add to my collection. It is not one of the greatest films ever made but Ava Gardner gives one of her best performances.
            Barbara Beaurevel (Gardner) has been having an affair with Dr. Mark Lucas(Mitchum). Mark is leaving for South America to study so he can make professor at Tulane. He wants Barbara to come away with him and she wants to desperately. When she gets back to her house she quickly packs but her sneaky slimy cousin Paul (Melvyn Douglas) manipulates her into staying to not ruin the family name. Barbara writes her regrets to Mark but says she still loves him.
            Months later an attorney comes to Barbara’s home to tell her that she has inherited money from her mother’s Crandall family. Her witch of an aunt and Paul lie to the attorney telling him that Barbara has died and turn the man away. Both mother and son are money hungry and nasty people they desperately want Barbara’s money but they do not want the shame of the name with it.
            The day Mark’s ship returns she tells her aunt that she wants to go down to the docks to meet her other cousin who is also on the ship. Paul goes down with her and notices she is looking for Mark. When Mark walks off the ship he is cold to her and tells her he got married while he was away. Barbara is devastated. She knows the attorney was at her house and goes to him seeking the money. As she leaves the attorney’s office he says that he does not like her smile there is something behind it.
            When Paul finds out what Barbara has done he bursts into her room in the morning and pulls her out of bed. She slaps him in the face but he likes it. He and his mother are upset with her for taking Crandall money. Barbara’s grandmother Carrie Crandall was a notorious woman with a bad reputation. Barbara does not care it is her money that has come down to her and she wants to do what she wants with it. Paul and his mother begin to scheme of ways to get Barbara’s money.
            Barbara is throwing a party at her aunt’s house like they used to. She wants Mark and his wife Corinne to come. She personally visits Corinne to give her the invitation but also to see if Corinne really loves Mark. Corinne admits that she is a social climber and will not be happy if Mark does not make a lot of money. At the party Barbara and Mark talk about what happened after he left. He tells he got her letter that she never wanted to see him again. Paul did not deliver her letter to Mark which is why Mark was cold to her.
            After the party Barbara confronts Paul about the letter but offers her dear cousin a deal. She noticed that Corinne was attracted to Paul at the party. She tells her cousin that she will give him fifty thousand dollars to start his own brokerage firm if he can seduce Corinne and get her to leave Mark.
            Barbara’s plan goes well for a while. Corinne does fall in love with Paul but one night things go wrong and he accidentally kills Corinne. Barbara shows up not long after and so does Mark. The town thinks Mark is guilty and he is put on trial. Barbara cannot bear to see her former love accused of something he did not do and yells out in court that it was she and her cousin who killed Corinne.
            Alright so definitely not the greatest story ever but let me tell you Ava Gardner was fabulous. There were certain shots of her face that were absolutely stunning especially the ones of her in the garden during the party. Gardner was very subtle playing her character’s emotions of anger and hurt and sadness. She really played the part just right. Gardner was a good actress but after reading that she really did not care in her earlier career you can see that in some of her performances but in this film she looked like she cared and did an incredible job.
            Robert Mitchum was good but he felt awfully miscast as a doctor from the late 1800s. You can believe him to be a former Northerner who had to gamble his way through school and work hard to get where he is but it is just hard to really accept him in this sort of role. Mitchum and Gardner did have excellent chemistry though, I wish they had made a better film together, they would have been great in a Noir together.
            Now I love seeing Melvyn Douglas in films. His characters in the thirties were always charming and sweet and nice but in this film he was slimy and no good. He did a fabulous job because I really hated his character so much!
            My Forbidden Past is not a very good film the plot has a lot of holes and is very thin but for what we are given and the performances by Ava Gardner, Robert Mitchum, and Melvyn Douglas make up for the thinness. The opening scene alone is worth sitting through the film. It opens up with Mitchum and Gardner by a river. Gardner is lying down in the grass and opens her eyes to see Mitchum standing above her. There is no dialogue here and it is just gorgeous. Whenever My Forbidden Past becomes available on DVD I will surely be buying it simply because it is one of Ava Gardner’s best acted films and for the beautiful opening sequence.