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Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Astonished Heart (1950)

As her husband (Noel Coward) lies dying, his wife (Celia Johnson) calls her husband's mistress (Margaret Leighton) to come over to see him before he expires. While waiting for her to arrive, the wife reflects on how and when the love triangle began. The title comes from the Bible, Deuteronomy 28:28, "The Lord shall smite thee with madness, blindness and astonishment of heart". Based on one of his one act plays featured in TONIGHT AT 8:30, Noel Coward wrote the screenplay and the film's underscore as well as playing the leading role. What might have been a decent romantic melodrama along the lines of his BRIEF ENCOUNTER falls flat in no small part by Coward's egregious miscasting. In a film about a man destroyed by passion, the rather dowdy Coward can't seem to even say his own lines with any conviction. It's hard to imagine Leighton and Johnson suffering for love of Coward when he can't summon up anything remotely resembling fervor. For example, there's a scene where a "jealous" Coward is harassing Leighton to find out about her former lovers with all the intensity of a tired schoolmaster quizzing a backward student! Not addressed is the concern that both the women are too good for him. Co-directed by Terence Fisher and Antony Darnborough. With Joyce Carey, Michael Hordern and Graham Payn.

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