Thursday, February 10, 2011

East Side, West Side (1949)


“If I were your wife, I'd cut your heart out!”

            East Side, West Side feels like a film that could be made today: fill a poorly written script with a poorly written story with a whole bunch of well known and talented cast of actors and no one will care what the plot or story is about. The only way this stands out from really feeling like a film that could be made today is the cast of classic actors and actresses that today’s stars cannot compare to. Even with a crappy story the acting is still fantastic (well I had issues with James Mason as the lead but I’ll get to that in a bit.)
            Brandon Bourne (James Mason) is a cheating husband. He cheated on his wife Jessie (Barbara Stanwyck) some time ago with a beautifully seductive woman named Isabel Lorrison (do I even have to tell you who plays this part?). Jessie has forgiven her husband who has promised not to be the playboy he once was- he did chose to stay with her after all instead of running away with Isabel. One night after work Brandon decides to go out for a drink. He goes to this club where he meets a girl Rosa Senta (Cyd Charisse) who happens to know his wife from the dress shop she works at. Then who comes walking in but Jezebel herself Isabel Lorrison. She walks in with a new wealthy man. As Brandon leaves Isabel’s new man punches him in the face outside of the club and Rosa helps him. Unfortunately the press was waiting outside and got a picture of the young woman helping out the injured married man. 
            The next day the picture is splashed all over the front pages of the paper. Brandon explains that the girl helped him out and took him to her apartment until he got up and left (which is true he really did). Jessie believes him but she goes to talk to Rosa anyway.
            Rosa’s friend (or boyfriend not really sure) Mark Dwyer (Van Heflin) comes back from writing about the war in Italy. Jessie holds a party for his homecoming. After this night Mark and Jessie start to see each other, each has strong feelings for the other. Mark feels bad that Brandon is cheating on Jessie.
            Brandon is once again (somewhat) seeing Isabel. He makes the mistake of writing down her address and leaving work one day with Isabel. Jessie finds Isabel’s address and pays a visit to the woman. Isabel is determined to get Brandon away from Jessie. After some words Jessie leaves with Mark who has been sitting outside in his car.
            A while later Isabel is found dead by Brandon in her apartment. Both Bournes are the prime suspects in the murder.
            Put it this way: Isabel was not well liked by many.
            The whole reason I bought this film was for Ava Gardner. If there was ever a film that closely resembled her real life at the time it was this one. Isabel is a character that right when you see her you know she is up to absolutely no good. She’s seductive and knows how wrangle any man she wants. Isabel gets Brandon to take her home and she sits so seductively on the couch that I do not know how men when they went to see this in theaters did not jump onto the screen! In the same scene you can see that she gets under Brandon’s skin. Gardner played that scene so well you can see on her face that she knows she is getting under the man’s skin just by looking at her teasing face. I am currently reading a biography on Ava Gardner (called “Love is Nothing” by Lee Server which is so good) and when she went out men needed to be hidden by their girlfriends/wives for fear they would go home with her (in a sense) . Isabel is a man eater and so was Gardner. Before and during the filming of this film Gardner was having an affair with Robert Taylor who was at the time married to Barbara Stanwyck. Well that did not go over so well and Stanwyck did not even want to meet Gardner. The scene where Jessie and Isabel meet feels intense; probably because the atmosphere on set when the two ladies came face to face to do the scene was super intense. The acting in the scene was done so well by both actresses; Isabel is getting frustrated at Jessie not letting Brandon go so he could be with her and Jessie just remains as calm as possible.
            This was my first time seeing Barbara Stanwyck in a film. Although the film was not great and the character of Jessie someone seen over and over again I really liked Stanwyck she was very good and most importantly did not over act. I like her husky voice it was beautiful. Now I cannot wait to see her in other films.
            This was also my first time seeing Cyd Charisse not dancing in a film. It seems like MGM did not know what to do with her and just threw her into the role of Rosa Senta. She did a good job as well with her character but her acting is nothing to go on about (I love her I have a couple of films with her but they are the ones where she is mostly dancing.) I will say Charisse was totally adorable.
            I had issues with James Mason being the leading man. There was something about him I did not like at all. To me he was not believable as the cheating husband going around with a beautiful younger girl. Maybe this is so because I do not think he is good looking enough to attract the attention and fighting over from Ava Gardner (especially) and Barbara Stanwyck.
            East Side, West Side is an alright film, definitely not one of the best ever made. Ava Gardner in her brief but powerful scenes stole the whole film. After Isabel dies there was not too much to look forward to. See it for the good performances from Ava Gardner and Barbara Stanwyck but other than that there is nothing that interesting about it.