The Whole Truth (1958)

wholet1My first comment regards The Whole Truth is my surprise when I saw the directors credit come up on the screen: John Guillermin, who later directed such notable films as The Blue Max, The Towering Inferno and the 1976 remake of King Kong (and, later, its regrettable sequel, King Kong Lives). I assumed, wrongly, that perhaps this 1958 whodunit was one of his first features, but looking it up later, I saw he’d done several before, the first dating back to 1949. Guillermin has a bit of a footnote in my film affections, as a paperback tie-in about the making of the 1976 King Kong that I bought from my local newsagents proved to be my first real discovery regards all the machinations behind the scenes of movies and set me off on the path that leads to, well, me here posting on an obscure blog about films and ‘stuff’. I remember picking it up off the rack 44 years ago, fascinated by the text and the b&w pictures detailing that troubled production (even at the age of ten I reasoned they could never get away with that fake full-size ape and a man in an ape suit, but I guess those were innocent times just before Star Wars shook up the visual effects game). Reading about Guillerman’s tribulations making that film was my first appreciation of the role of directors in film.

I’m not certain anything in The Whole Truth suggests bigger and better things lay ahead for Guillermin, but there are certainly a few good crane shots ambitiously trying to make more of the frankly claustrophobic sets doubling for streets.

The Whole Truth is also notable because it stars the great and beautiful Donna Reed, who I’ve always had a bit of an unrequited love affair with since I first saw her enchanting performance in Its A Wonderful Life. After The Whole Truth, Reed would move over to television where she had huge success with The Donna Reed Show, which ran for several years- I suppose the success of which resulted in her never making any more movies. Our loss, I think. Reed had an enduring presence, albeit sickly wholesome to some I suppose, on screen had the camera certainly loved her. I appreciate I really haven’t seen many of her film appearances, but wonder what she might have done had she opportunity to move away from that wholesome screen image. Wouldn’t surprise me if she felt hampered by it and that was why she ultimately moved away from films. Reed died far too young, just 64, in 1986.

Which reminds me of Yvonne Mitchell, who I saw recently in Turn the Key Softly– Mitchell herself died too young, at the age of just 63, in 1979. I only mention this because its made me wonder about their generation- I suppose they smoked, or lived and worked in smoke-filled places. It just made me think about how people of their generation possibly died too young, simply because of the way society was in their day, with the prevalence and popularity of smoking. It was just the way the world was, I suppose. You’ve only got to watch films of the 1940’s and 1950’s to see it, everybody seems to smoke onscreen or be in smoky places, and its clearly a socially accepted thing, heedless of any health dangers (both women died of cancer).

You may have noticed I’m not writing much about The Whole Truth. To be honest, its because there really isn’t much to say: its pretty average, really.  Stuart Granger plays film producer Max Poulton, struggling with temperamental, hot-headed leading lady Gina Bertini (Gianna Maria Canale) who he had an affair with several months ago. Gina is keen on restarting the affair but Max is trying to save his marriage with loving wife Carol (Donna Reed). When Gina is murdered, Max finds himself the prime suspect, something not helped when his lies about his affair (trying to maintain it a secret from his unaware wife) are uncovered by the police, the lies threatening to cast even deeper suspicion upon him. Max learns that Gina’s husband has engineered the whole thing as an act of revenge and Max has to go on the run to prove his innocence. It probably sounds better than it is- its obviously inspired by the Hitchcock thrillers of that era, but its definitely a poor-mans Hitchcock, if even that.

wholet2Its a bit of a shame- there is a good cast in the film. George Sanders as the victim’s cunning husband proves a slimy scene-stealer, and Granger is perfectly fine albeit largely unsympathetic (which damages the film somewhat). Reed is given little to do in an underwritten role that depends on her wholesome screen persona to carry her through. The film shows all the hallmarks of a rushed, low-budget production, not helped by some pretty poor sets, particularly the street exteriors (‘Murder on the Riviera!‘ proclaimed the films posters, but its as far from the Riviera as a beachfront in North Wales).

Part of my issue with the film might simply have stemmed from its (in my humble opinion) ill-fitting, upbeat Jazzy score that would suit a spy caper better. There are moments of the score when it seems at odds with the scene, almost as if it is source music from a radio- it distracted me often. The film has more problems than just that score, but its what bothered me the most. There’s nothing quite as perfect as a score that perfectly suits its film, easy listening or not, and for me if a score proves ill-fitting its really something of a problem.

6 thoughts on “The Whole Truth (1958)

  1. As an unashamed aficionado of 1950s cinema, I have to say I’m particularly enjoying your recent trawl through these movies. If you’re up for, in my opinion anyway, some worthwhile early Guillermin, then you could check out Town on Trial and Never Let Go, which has a refreshingly different role for Peter Sellers.

    1. Matthew McKinnon

      I’ll second ‘Never Let Go’, which is an above-average Brit-noir.

      But I’d definitely massively recommend Gullierman’s ‘Rapture’, a fabulously-shot and acted (and quite edgy) drama from the mid-60s. There’s a great Eureka blu-ray available.

      1. I hope you’ve got a mint copy of Eureka’s Rapture nice and safe- have you seen the prices for that thing online? Yep, its another title that’s gone OOP, something all too frequent with discs of late. A sign o’ the times, I suspect.

  2. Pingback: The 2020 List: June – the ghost of 82

  3. Matthew McKinnon

    Many thanks again for flagging this channel: I’ve been keeping an eye on their schedules every week and they’re showing at least five movies I was very keen to see [my wife and I, who’ve both worked in Soho for many years, were watching a clip from The Small World Of Sammy Lee the other night, and lo and behold it’s screening in a couple of weeks!], and a good few I had a slightly milder interest in. An amazing resource, and for free!

    1. I can only hope that some of the networks (particularly the BBC) see the success of Talking Pictures and adopts some of its approach to programming. For that matter, Netflix with its resources could become an archive of older, b&w movies and perhaps widen its currently-more youthful demographic and thus increase its own subscription base. I saw a news feature about Talking Pictures demonstrating that its being run out of a garden shed (!) so I can’t imagine such older programming would require great outlay. Certainly with physical media increasingly marginalised it would be a good way of keeping old films available. My recent buying of ‘old’ classics on Criterion and Arrow labels has really opened my eyes to greats I’d missed. Talking Pictures, meanwhile, as you say, is a gift that just keeps on giving…

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