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Thursday, July 22, 2010

An American Dream (1966)

There’s a good movie to be made out of Norman Mailer’s novel but unfortunately, this wasn’t it and it’s unlikely to be rectified anytime soon. Pauline Kael once remarked that John Huston was the man to direct it and she wasn’t far off. Instead it got a TV director Robert Gist (Agnes Moorehead’s ex-husband). From the opening credits layered over pink satin with Johnny Mandel’s elegant cocktail jazz music, it’s clear that they have it all wrong and the first shot of a nude Eleanor Parker wearing only sunglasses and pearls lounging on a fur bedspread conjures up Harold Robbins, not Norman Mailer, and the film continues to mutilate the novel. Then Parker’s shrieking banshee performance flings the movie into bad movies we can’t resist territory though after Parker’s spectacular fall from a 30 story balcony, a lot of the “fun” goes with her. Still, it’s bad enough to be compelling though Stuart Whitman as Parker’s husband (and her murderer) and Janet Leigh as his ex-girlfriend suffer thru the film’s worst lines (though Leigh is given the film‘s best and last line). It also has that awful television look that so many Universal films from the 1960s had. Only two things elevate from its tawdriness. Lloyd Nolan does the only good acting as Parker’s father and Johnny Mandel’s moody score gives the film a class it doesn’t warrant.

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