Sunday, March 26, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Flamingo Road (1949) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

One of my favorite Joan Crawford films, FLAMINGO ROAD (1949), has just been released on a beautiful Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection.

I first saw this film in 2018 at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival and I liked it even more the second time around. This Warner Bros. melodrama is pure entertainment from start to finish.

Crawford plays Lane Bellamy, who takes a waitress job in the town of Bolton after the carnival she works for is chased out of one town too many.

Deputy Sheriff Fielding Carlisle (Zachary Scott) takes a shine to Lane, which doesn't sit well with Carlisle's political patron, Sheriff Titus Semple (Sydney Greenstreet).

Semple has big plans for Carlisle and wants him to marry wealthy, proper Annabelle (Virginia Huston, OUT OF THE PAST), not a waitress from the wrong side of the tracks, and Carlisle is weak enough to accede to Semple's wishes.

Lane soon marries herself, to political boss Dan Fielding (David Brian). Lane doesn't initially realize it, but she's fortunate to marry a strong man who truly loves her; Carlisle, meanwhile, is unhappy despite being elected to the state legislature and quickly collapses into alcoholism.

When Semple cancels his plans to move Carlisle from the state senate into the governor's mansion, he sets everyone in town toward a series of explosive collisions.

I think I appreciated the film even more on this viewing, understanding the characters and where they were going from the outset. David Brian, in particular, is really outstanding in this as a shady dealer who is a good man deep inside; I liked following Dan's journey having a clearer idea of who he was, rather than trying to figure it out as the story went along. It's a good example of how sometimes a film can be a richer viewing experience the second time around.

It goes without saying that Crawford is superb, she's backed by an outstanding cast from top to bottom. On this viewing I particularly enjoyed Huston's Annabelle, who pays lip service to loving Carlisle but is more concerned with status. When Carlisle makes his perfunctory marriage proposal, there are only a couple lines of romance before she turns her attention to planning the wedding and what it will mean for her socially.

The cast also includes a pitch perfect Gladys George and Fred Clark, plus Gertrude Michael, Sam McDaniel, Alice White, Tito Vuolo, John Gallaudet, and Iris Adrian.

The telegram boy late in the film is former child actor Sammy McKim, who would go on to be named a Disney Legend for his work as an Imagineer. The nightclub singer is Lina Romay, and look for a young Dale Robertson in a couple of early roadhouse scenes.

This 94-minute film was written by Robert Wilder based on a play he wrote with Sally Wilder.Michael Curtiz directed, with excellent black and white photography by Ted McCord. The musical score was by Max Steiner. Crawford's gowns were designed by Travilla.

As mentioned above, the Blu-ray print is outstanding. FLAMINGO ROAD is a great example of a film which just wouldn't have played the same in Technicolor; it was a great pleasure to watch this gleaming black and white Blu-ray.

In my last Warner Archive review, for NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER (1949), I commented on that disc's low sound levels. I'm happy to say that the sound was perfectly normal on this disc and the dialogue was crisp and clear.

Disc extras consist of the trailer; the featurette CRAWFORD AT WARNERS, imported from the film's original DVD release; the Porky Pig cartoon CURTAIN RAZOR (1949); the short BREAKDOWNS OF 1949; and a Screen Director's Playhouse radio version with Crwaford and Brian..

Both the film and this Blu-ray are highly recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Amazon Warner Archive Collection Store, Movie Zyng, or from any online retailers were Blu-rays are sold.


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