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Friday, March 18, 2011

Storm Center (1956)

In a small New England town, a librarian (Bette Davis) is pressured into removing a book on communism from its shelves. When on principle she refuses, she is fired. But it doesn't end there as the situation spirals out of control when not only is she accused of being a communist but a right wing politician (Brian Keith) attempts to ride the coattails of the controversy and a small boy (Kevin Coughlin) is brainwashed by his father (Joe Mantell) into denouncing her. The only film directed by the Oscar winning screenwriter Daniel Taradash (FROM HERE TO ETERNITY), the film should have been a lit firecracker of a movie considering its topical and controversial subject matter. Instead, its heavy handed approach resembles those Stanley Kramer "it's good for you" civics lesson movies. Not a surprise since Kramer was originally attached to produced the film as a comeback vehicle for Mary Pickford before both dropped out. Davis isn't at her best here either. The "sweet librarian who loves children" role fits her like a strait jacket though there's one startling Davis moment when she loses control and starts mercilessly slapping a child. The child, Kevin Coughlin, compromises the film severely as he's one of those awful child actors who reads lines without seeming comprehension of what he's saying. With Kim Hunter (herself only recently removed from the blacklist), Paul Kelly, Kathryn Grant and Edward Platt.

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