Sunday, August 05, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Winter Meeting (1948) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

A pair of troubled introverts fall in love but may not be destined to remain together in WINTER MEETING (1948), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

In this interesting Bette Davis film, she plays Susan Grieve, an unmarried poet of a certain age whose friend (John Hoyt) introduces her to a recently returned war hero, Slick Novak (Jim Davis).

The retiring Slick is drawn to quiet Susan and ditches his lovely but shallow and overly loquacious date (Janis Paige) in order to accompany Susan home. Susan and Slick have a push-pull relationship, moving tentatively closer, trading sharp words and stepping back again, then moving closer still.

Slick draws Susan out to discuss her father's suicide and her difficult relationship with her mother...but just when she's got that off her chest and is feeling increasingly serious about him, Susan learns why Slick is given to staring contemplatively into space: Marriage has never been in his plans, as he intends to be a Roman Catholic priest.

I enjoyed this flawed yet absorbing film. Catherine Turney's screenplay, based on a novel by Ethel Vance, is a little too talky for its hour and 44 minutes, and the movie could have stood a bit of trimming. The movie becomes a bit incoherent trying to effectively explain Slick's call to the priesthood, and the movie also contends with the issue that Jim Davis might have been a perfect cowboy star, but here he struggles to convey all the appropriate emotions.

He does just well enough to get by, however, and Bette Davis is outstanding, with enough dramatic breadth for two actors; she pulls her costar Davis along by sheer force of will. Incidentally, I initially felt there was a significant age gap between the two Davises, but when I looked it up I learned that she was only one year older than her leading man.

I also loved Davis's spot-on costumes, hairstyles, and her beautiful New York apartment! The movie's production values and thoughtful design make it a pleasure to step into its world.

The supporting cast includes Florence Bates and Walter Baldwin, along with Woody Herman and His Orchestra, who must have been the band playing in the opening nightclub scenes.

WINTER MEETING was directed by Bretaigne Windust and filmed in black and white by Ernest Haller. The score is by Max Steiner.

The print is rougher than the typical Warner Archive DVD, with plenty of speckles and scratches, though they're generally small. In the last hour the soundtrack didn't always match up with the actors' mouths, but it was close enough to be watchable. There were a few minor digital breakups partway through the disc so I suppose it's possible the soundtrack problem is specific to this DVD, but I have no way to know for sure.

The Warner Archive DVD includes the trailer.

WINTER MEETING was released by the Warner Archive some years ago, but as I periodically remind readers, since Warner Archive Collection films are made "on demand," titles remain just as available now as they were when first released.

As with the other Warner Archive films I reviewed earlier today, WINTER MEETING is imperfect yet also enjoyable and memorable, and I'm quite glad that it's available thanks to the Warner Archive.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger barrylane said...

Winter Meeting is a film essentially about sexual repression and I suppose government funded French films produced, written and directed by the Gitanes crowd could live on academic reviews, this thing could not. No one went. no one is not quite a literal truth, but pretty near it. The people, much derided the past few years, can smell self indulgent nothingness. They not only got it right, even Clark gable in Jim Davis' part could have saved Winter Meeting. Undoubtedly, he would have passed. AS for Jim, He became adequate about twenty years later. Too late, too little, and not enough.

7:07 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Enjoyed your take, though I found the movie quite a bit more entertaining than you obviously did! (Grin) Interesting that it did so poorly at the box office. While it served as a cozy Sunday afternoon movie for me, I can imagine why this slow-moving film, much of it a two-person character study, didn't pull in the crowds.

Best wishes,

10:43 AM  
Blogger Klh said...

I agree Laura .... on the surface, which is where I could have started and stopped as well I guess, it’s a slow melodrama where the only real chemistry is between Stacey and Susan. They banter as if ad-libbing turned into the only fun talented actors could make happen on the set. But the Naval hero’s stiff uneasy manner whether accidental or not made their walking-on-eggs conversations believable and interesting. The words, the evolution that appears a frantic almost desperate rush to reveal themselves to each other — this is more realistic than otnis melodramatic to me precisely because it’s not polished neat and pretty. Just like the process of opening up, the craving for intimacy is clumsy like the human condition from loneliness to connection sometimes stumbles bumbles fumbles ? Whatever the word, it wasn’t ‘cool’ as acting would have presented it. It was clumsy like these 2.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for sharing your perspective on this film. It definitely seems to draw a variety of opinions! I do think Jim Davis's awkwardness ultimately works in favor of the film as the two characters struggle to communicate their true selves.

Best wishes,

1:42 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Alfred Hitchcock is on record as describing movies like life with the boring parts left out. Winter |Meeting seems to concentrate on them.

2:08 PM  

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