Sunday, July 03, 2011

Tonight's Movie: The Company She Keeps (1951)

Today has been a Jane Greer double bill, thanks to the recent evening of Greer films on Turner Classic Movies. I followed up watching STATION WEST (1948) with THE COMPANY SHE KEEPS, an interesting drama about a woman on parole.

Greer plays Mildred Lynch, a parolee who adopts a new name, Diane Stuart, for her new life. When Diane arrives in Southern California, her parole officer, Joan Wilburn (Lizabeth Scott), gets Diane a job at a hospital. Unbeknownst to Joan, she also provides Diane with a boyfriend, as Joan's longtime steady, Larry (Dennis O'Keefe), falls hard for Diane. Needless to say, this creates all sorts of headaches for both women.

This is a solid, absorbing movie, thanks chiefly to Greer's multilayered performance as the insecure, troubled Diane. She starts out as an insincerely sugary sweet manipulator in front of the parole board, struggles with resentment and temptation, and gradually matures to a more responsible woman in love, with hope for a positive future. Greer conveys a world of emotions with her eyes and quavering voice.

Dennis O'Keefe seems to keep turning up in my viewing of late, most recently in DISHONORED LADY (1947) and T-MEN (1947). I liked him very well in this; his loyalty to Diane, despite all, is quite appealing. He has a particularly well-done scene where Larry has the awkward task of informing Joan, who had been reluctant to make a commitment, that he's found a new love. His angst watching Diane in a police lineup is palpable.

Lizabeth Scott is fine as Diane's almost unbelievably saintly parole officer. Fay Baker, who plays another parolee employed at the hospital, appeared the same year in a far different role in THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL. In that film she was Margaret, the restrained, dignified nanny. Here she's a hard-bitten type who's a prime candidate to head back to jail, possibly dragging Diane along with her.

There's a fascinating bit of movie trivia connected with this film. In one of the final scenes, Joan and Larry are sitting in Union Station next to a young mother who is accompanied by a little boy and an infant. The woman is Dorothy Dean Bridges, the little boy is Beau Bridges, and the infant is future Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges -- who, in fact, would one day appear with Greer in AGAINST ALL ODDS (1984), a remake of Greer's famous film noir OUT OF THE PAST (1947). This was Jeff's screen debut, while it was Beau's fifth film appearance.

Also in the cast are John Hoyt, James Bell, Irene Tedrow, Virginia Farmer, and Kathleen Freeman.

THE COMPANY SHE KEEPS was directed by John Cromwell and photographed by Nicholas Musuraca. Musuraca, in fact, also photographed OUT OF THE PAST (1947). A clip available at TCM shows off some of the location shooting in the Greater Los Angeles area.

The movie runs 82 minutes.

THE COMPANY SHE KEEPS has been released as a Region 2 DVD in Spain. It has not been released on DVD or VHS in the United States.


Blogger Kristina said...

i just watched this movie last week, laughed out loud at the line between two women at Scott's parole office: "how do you spell 'indisposed'?"
I really enjoyed this movie, Greer was so nasty yet with that niggling conscience, that you really root for her to make good and finally trust somebody.
Nice review. --Kristina

1:03 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad you got to see it too, Kristina! That was a great line. Greer does really well being someone who is both unlikeable and sympathetic -- not easy to pull off.

Best wishes,

3:54 PM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Oh wow! I need to see this one!

7:05 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It's a very interesting movie, Raquelle. Not perfect, but definitely worthwhile for various reasons. I'm really enjoying working my way through Jane Greer's filmography.

Best wishes,

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The year before he made this film, director John Cromwell made a movie called "Caged" which starred Eleanor Parker. "The Company She Keeps" tends to get compared to the earlier film (which also deals with women and prison) and found wanting - this is hardly fair to the later film, which I actually like a lot (and Greer is fantastic in it). As head honcho at RKO, Howard Hughes ruined a fair number of movies - he's the likely culprit behind the disappointing ending to Jacques Tourneur's Easy Street (Victor Mature slapping Lizabeth Scott a couple of times and taking her away to some podunk town where he's been offered a coaching job INSTEAD of leaving her and running off with Lucille Ball) - the ridiculously protracted ending to John Farrow's His Kind of Woman (Hughes reportedly asked for more and more footage of Robert Mitchum getting beaten up AFTER the film wrapped) - the changed ending of Nick Ray's Born to be Bad (see the wikipedia page for that - it's a LONG story), but in the case of "Company", if Hughes meddled and is responsible a considerably more optimistic ending than the first half of the film suggests is coming, I am totally ok with it.

9:21 AM  

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