Thursday, 24 October 2013

“INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE” WITH MONTGOMERY CLIFT





Whenever I’m asked to recall the exact moment I knew I was gay, I always respond this: the minute I saw Montgomery Clift’s chiseled face on screen in A PLACE IN THE SUN. I was around 10 but I still remember vividly how breathless I suddenly became at the mere sight of him. Mind you, it would take me another five years to actually cement my love for d… men—but I will always regard that particular film as the pivotal point of my own sexual revolution. Fast-forward 30 some years and, wouldn’t you know, that damn Monty still does it for me, but it’s in INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE this time, the 1953 melodrama that so wants to pass as high art.
 


 

The fun begins when Clift catches up with bad-movie queen Jennifer Jones (RUBY GENTRY, DUEL IN THE SUN…), at an Italian train station. She wants to go back to the States but he won’t let her. He’s too much in love. And despite gawking at her and she at him in tight close ups to an overbearing syrupy score, Jones won’t have it. She’s a (unhappy) married woman with child, you see, out alone in Europe on a fling, and she just can’t commit. Monty insists, promising a true peasant lifestyle with boat rides and little spouse beatings (‘cause he’s half Italian). And she almost agrees to that but changes her mind. Distraught, he runs off, but not before giving her a dose of the life she leaves behind: a heavy slap on the face.

 
Hurt and embarrassed, she tries to move on, but like any true Hollywood heroine of that era (of any era, for that matter), she is unable to do so. Later on when she almost loses Monty to a moving train as he crosses rails to get to her, she realizes just how much she digs him. Unable to keep their hands to themselves any longer, they hide in what looks like an abandoned train and make whoopie (off screen)—until, gasp, they get caught red-handed by security. Apprehended, they literally walk the hall of shame to the in-house police station while people snicker and jeer. Why not put a big scarlet A on their breast pockets while at it? But since it’s a ‘50s film and set in a foreign country, we’ll let it go. It all comes down to Monty and Jones pleading their case to a hard-headed police commissioner before getting released free of charge. Does Jones leave Monty in the end? You betcha. You really didn’t think they would end up happily ever after did you? They had committed one of the biggest sins, people. They had to pay somehow. Just like we did, sitting through this lovable wreck of a film.
 

INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE was helmed by hit maker Vittorio De Sica (who later on directed YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW which won him an Oscar). The dialogue was adapted by Truman Capote, Jackie Susann’s nemesis (he once called her a truck driver in drag, the little twerp). It’s also interesting to note that while Christian Dior is attached to the production as Jones’ costume designer, only one creation of his is shown throughout the film. And hunky Monty says it best when he disdainfully removes part of it: "It’s a smug little hat". I knew I could count on you Monty. I just knew it.



 
 
 
Until next post—Martin

 


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

JUDITH GOULD’S “DAZZLE”




Sometimes re-reading a favorite isn’t such a great idea after all. Case in point: Judith Gould’s DAZZLE (now out in e-book form from Malden Bridge Press). I remember devouring it the first time I got a hold of it. It was the late 80s and I had just finished SINS and couldn’t get enough of this author. So in came DAZZLE to satisfy my intellectual needs. Intellectual? Yes, intellectual. Proust may do it for some. Me? Gould and the likes satisfy me aplenty. It would take me years to figure out that this lady is actually a pseudonym for two fellows by the name of Nicholas Peter Bienes and Rhea Gallaher. Since then they have become my main men in trash fiction, and with good reasons: titillating is their middle name. Yes, some of their novels are better than others, but all have a common denominator: they (really) center around the rich. Having gone through their entire backlist, I’ve been waiting eagerly for another title to emerge, but as of now nothing has been confirmed. Perhaps they go by another pen name these days, but color me clueless as to what they have become. I’ve tried and tried to reach them via emails but as I write this I have yet to hear from them. So feeling like revisiting one of their earlier success to commemorate their undeniable talent, I picked up DAZZLE first because it’s been more than two decades since I’ve read it, and second, it was the only novel that I still had not gone over twice.
 
 
At first, everything was
hunky-dory, going back to this tale of three multi-generational women caught in their own web of deception. I’ve always been a sucker for stage and screen types of novels and this one was right up my alley. But as I got deeper and deeper into it one thing began to bug me, which to this day I still don’t understand how it could have breezed through without my noticing it the first time around. There seemed to be a change of focus all of a sudden. One that ultimately took over the central plot. The novel wasn’t really about the silly problems of the rich anymore (as the back cover so proudly proclaims). No, DAZZLE was turning out to be more serious than that. Oh, it still bathed in opulence as a good trashy novel should, but it added another layer to its theme: the political kind. All about the conflict between Arabs and Jews which, frankly, might still be interesting given in small doses. But as the whole enchilada, huh, no. Of course I did persevere. I wasn’t about to abandon one fine if not perfect lengthy novel. It’s Gould we’re talking about here. You never leave royalty. They leave you. But I got to admit that I was less intrigued by the two main characters, a lot less. Oh I still craved for them two to unite, but I wasn’t as involved as I should, and this bummed me. 
 

So who’s to blame here? Little moi who’s become pickier and pickier in my experienced years or the marketing people who have committed a big faux pas by making the reader believe he/she was set for another SINS-like thrill ride? I verge more on the marketing ploy (of course). Because were it not for their tactic ways, I would have known exactly what I was getting myself into. That said, Bienes and Gallaher still pen a good story despite its political swerve, and their narrative couldn’t be any stronger. I just wish the novel would have centered more on the Hollywood-based drama as promised. Still, I’d say give DAZZLE a go. Just be aware of its true colors.

 



 

Until next post—Martin