May 21, 2011

Why I love "Beloved Infidel" (1959)

Last night I saw (again) Beloved Infidel (1959; Henry King), this time with my mom. While I re-watched it I thought about why I like it so much, when it's not a very popular movie (Imdb users give it a 5.9). Plus it's about the relationship between Francis Scott Fitzgerald and Hollywood columnist Sheilah Graham, which should make me very bitter, since I've read some books about Scott and his wife, Zelda. 

Scott and Sheilah.
The Hollywood version of the couple.

I love it, first, because of the cast.

Gregory Peck and Deborah Kerr are superb as Scott and Sheilah. He, making so palpable the dichotomy between a sober person, in this case, a supportive, understanding and kind Scott and a drunk person. Drunk Scott is sometimes very annoying, and talks and talks and can be even funny. Drunk people sometimes are. But then he can be a violent, hurtful man, a man that has lost all the social filters and can't restrain himself. Gregory is so great at both.

And she, starting the movie as her elegant, witty characters. My mom thought I had chosen An affair to remember again. At the beginning, Sheilah Graham is a British reporter recently arrived to the States that --according to herself-- has many contacts with noblemen and the royalty. Is a woman that writes what she thinks about Hollywood actors and criticize them.

But when she meets Scott, all the masquerade melts and it's so touching, so human the way it does. This is one of my favorite scenes and contains a really powerful performance from both actors:


Heartbreaking, don't you guys think? 

Another thing I love from this movie, is the attention to the details in terms of the gestures and common little actions one makes everyday. Deborah passes some sheets and a pen to Gregory, so he can make some corrections. He starts writing a bit uncomfortable because he has no support for the sheets, so Deborah passes him a magazine, so he can write over it. You know, small things that make the performance more human. 

Deborah was great a little gestures. Sometimes she reinforces what she's saying with a little smile or a wink. Or she nods playfully. Gregory too, I noticed yesterday, that for example, when he was evaluating the idea of going to Malibu, he had his arms crossed and he drummed with his fingers against his ribs. It was a small gesture, that maybe audience wouldn't notice, but it meant that Gregory was really thinking in what his character was feeling.

Eddie Albert, as Bob Carter (a character based on Robert Benchley, friend of Scott) brings logic to the whole drama: he advices Scott and explains things to Sheilah. I tried to recognize him as photographer Irving Radovich from Roman Holiday, but six years after, he looked totally different. 

Watching this movie, you go like in a roller coaster. When Sheilah and Scott meet, things go fine for both: he's working in some scripts for Hollywood, earning money to support his mentally ill wife and their daughter. And she is enjoying her success. Their relationship is fun and constructive.

The script contains so many little scenes that are fun/interesting to watch, like their visit to a small book shop in which the owner gives Scott some hope about his decadent career or when Scott offers Sheilah to make a list of books to read together. So it's painful to watch how Scott is dragged to hell and how he tries to overcome his problems.

I know there are a lot of cheesy aspects in this Hollywood version of the story, especially the combination of the main song and the beach scenes, the main song and most of the romantic scenes...plus the score is very intrusive at some points. BUT they can be totally overlooked in my opinion. And the main song by itself is not that bad.

If you haven't seen this because of the reviews, give it an opportunity. Greg and Deb's performances deserve it.

Deborah & Sheilah.
I only have one doubt: have any of you read Sheilah Graham's book? I wish I could, it must be great, even when I don't really like the gossip columnist job she did.

On a side note, it's so, so sad to know the real background of this story the way it ended for the official Fitzgeralds. Zelda dying in a fire in a mental hospital. Her letters to Scott were so profound and beautiful, I'll transcribe some of them for you one of these days. 

 I'd love to know your opinion about this movie.

7 comments :

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Morgan Marie said...

I absolutly LOVE this movie! I agree with so many things you said! I've owned the movie for 3 months tomorrow and have watched it at least 10 times! But just today I thought how awesome it was about the little human details like the magazine thing and BOOM i read this today and you talk about the magazine thing! Haha anyway, When I was looking up Deborah Kerr movies I read this review and indeed it did not sound good. A few months later I found a trailer and OMG I HAD TO HAVE IT. A month later my friend gave it to me for my b-day, now it is DEFINATLY one of my top 5 favorite movies! Anyway, Loved your review/blog about it. :)

Clara said...

Hey, Morgan, thanks for visiting!! I know! This is really a great, underrated movie :) LOL, yeah, the magazine thing is a great detail :) I'm glad more people like this movie, your friend is really cool and thanks for your kind words!! Hope to see you around!

Silviamdecastro said...

I haven´t seen the picture, cause your recommendations, I´ll do!
Chau.

ruth said...

All right!! I'm SO buying this movie! I found this site that sells rare dvds. I'm getting The Macomber Affair but I was debating if I should get this one, too. Your review just convinced me to do it :D

Clara said...

@ruth Ahhhh, Ruth, that's a lot of responsibilty!! I really hope you like it and consider it a good buy :) I enjoy it every time I watch it, even when it's a drama. Otherwise, you can come back and throw rotten tomatoes at me :) Have a great week, thanks for reading my blog.

ruth said...

My dear Clara... I finally saw this film after waiting for it for over a week for my dvd to arrive. OH my goodness... your review is soooo spot on!! I LOVE this movie, even though in Gregory's own bio it's said that he didn't like the film as he wasn't given enough time to delve into the character of Fitzgerald. Wow, even so I think Gregory was excellent here, he portrayed the charming, romantic version, as well as the drunken, uncontrollable version of the author very believably. Plus he just looks sooooo beautiful, even in his inebriated scenes he's just so adorable! I love Deborah in this as well, they have a nice chemistry together. That first dance scene, oh my, he made ME blush... to have Gregory look at me like that, I'd probably pass out! :D

Thanks for this review and for including the heartbreaking clip here. I will treasure this film for years to come!

Clara said...

@ruth I'm sooooo glad you liked it! Thanks for coming back here and writing such a nice comment :) I really appreciate it!

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