Monday, December 05, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Crossroads (1942)

CROSSROADS is a slow-moving, moderately interesting tale of amnesia and blackmail, with the convoluted storyline made worthwhile by two favorite actors in the leading roles.

David Talbot (William Powell) is a respected French (?!) diplomat with a rising career and a gorgeous wife, Lucienne (Hedy Lamarr). David is the victim of attempted extortion, and during the ensuing trial it's explained that David has no memory of his life prior to surviving a train crash 13 years previously. The blackmailer claims that David was a criminal in his past life, a charge that is quickly cleared up. Or so we think.

A trio of no-good criminals played by Basil Rathbone, Claire Trevor, and Margaret Wycherly have just begun to toy with David, and before too long they've got him wondering if he really could have been, as they claim, a murderer.

The plot meanders slowly round and round, as the extortionists play one card after another in their campaign to convince David of his past identity and force him to pay up so they won't destroy his career. It's not the most pleasant of stories, as David is put through the emotional wringer and his loving wife is continously worried about him. The film's storyline is neatly unraveled and explained in the final minutes, but it's a bit of a wait finally getting to that point, despite the fact that the movie is only 83 minutes long.

I enjoyed this film to some extent simply because it's always pleasant to spend time with William Powell and Hedy Lamarr. They're a pleasure to watch on screen, and they certainly exemplify the concept of glamorous MGM movie stardom. This was advertised as Powell's first straight dramatic role in years. As for Hedy, she may have been the most beautiful woman ever to grace a movie screen, which obscured the fact that she was also a believable and sympathetic actress. A couple of years later Powell and Lamarr were reunited in a lightweight comedy, THE HEAVENLY BODY (1944).

Lamarr has been in the news of late thanks to the new book on her pioneering scientific work in wireless technology; the book, by Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Rhodes, is titled HEDY'S FOLLY.

The supporting cast of CROSSROADS includes Felix Bressart, Sig Ruman, H.B. Warner, and Philip Merivale.

CROSSROADS was directed by Jack Conway and photographed in black and white by Joseph Ruttenberg. Hedy Lamarr's gowns were designed by Kalloch.

CROSSROADS is available in DVD-R format from the Warner Archive.

CROSSROADS was shown last week on Turner Classic Movies as part of the Star of the Month tribute to William Powell. The trailer is available on the TCM website.


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