Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Conflict (1945)

CONFLICT is an enjoyable, relatively little-known Humphrey Bogart film in which Bogie plays a wife murderer.

Everyone thinks Richard Mason (Bogart) is happily married to Kathryn (Rose Hobart), but the reality is Richard has tired of Kathryn's coldness and nagging, and he's deeply attracted to her younger sister, Evelyn (Alexis Smith). Richard devises the perfect plan to do away with Kathryn, leaving the road clear for him to court Evelyn. There's just one problem: Kathryn's possessions begin turning up in the oddest places, and Richard starts to wonder if Kathryn's really dead.

Bogart, of course, is always fascinating to watch. It's interesting to note that he played a wife murderer twice in the mid-'40s, the other film being THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS (1947). In fact, in both movies, Bogart is willing to kill so he can be free to marry Alexis Smith.

I especially enjoyed Smith in the smaller but key role as Evelyn. She's quite touching as she comes to realize Richard has feelings he shouldn't have for his wife's sister, and she has a couple of very well-played scenes towards the end of the movie.

I've seen Smith in four films in the last few weeks -- the others being THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943), THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS (1947), and WHIPLASH (1948) -- and seeing them in a short time frame makes one begin to realize just how good Smith was. She could play an icy, sharp-tongued sophisticate, an uncertain innocent, or something in between. In each of her films she plays distinctively unique characters, and the differences go beyond mere writing. In a later film, HERE COMES THE GROOM (1951), she's an awkward goofball suffering from unrequited love. Smith was an excellent member of the Warner Bros. stock company who perhaps has not received her full due over the years.

Another of CONFLICT's assets is the presence of Sydney Greenstreet as a friend of Richard and Kathryn's. Greenstreet plays a psychologist, and much of the film is devoted to trying to understand Richard's troubled state of mind. This film is yet another example of the fascination with psychology reflected in films of the mid-'40s; there's more on this topic in my recent post on SHOCK (1946). This subject would make a fascinating topic for a thesis!

Patrick O'Moore, who played Barbara Stanwyck's hero-to-the-rescue former beau in THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS, here plays the police detective working on Kathryn's "disappearance." Charles Drake plays a young man pining for Evelyn's affection. (Drake was recently seen by me in the 1955 film FEMALE ON THE BEACH, in which he had a nice role as a police lieutenant.) Grant Mitchell plays Bogart's friend and doctor, and Edwin Stanley is his butler.

This movie was directed by Curtis Bernhardt, with black and white cinematography by Merritt Gerstad. The gowns were designed by Orry-Kelly.

The screenplay by Arthur T. Horman and Dwight Taylor was based on a story by Alfred Neumann and Robert Siodmak. Siodmak, of course, would go on to direct many well-known suspense and film noir titles, which were listed in my April review of his film THE DARK MIRROR (1946).

The score by Frederick Hollander was orchestrated by Jerome Moross, who would go on to write one of the truly great film scores of all time, THE BIG COUNTRY (1958).

CONFLICT does not appear to have had a release on DVD. It was released on VHS back in 1998. (Update: CONFLICT is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive.)


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