Ha, this was kind of fun, if only to imagine the moral outrage of audiences back in 1950 watching Joan Fontaine’s Christabel Caine use her feminine wiles (were men such schmucks back then?) to work her way through wealthy socialites and betray the woman who took her in, and desert the woman who raised her, to get the riches (and man) she feels she deserves. Oh the horrible duplicitous cow. So sly! So rude! And worst of all, even at the end she can’t see how bad she is, doesn’t see the error of her ways and goes onto her next target feeling wholly unrepentant. What a thoroughly unpleasant little minx. I though bad girls were supposed to get punished by the end of these moral fables?
Nicholas Ray’s 1950 melodrama has dated pretty badly and in reality its really not that good a film- its pretty predictable but its enlivened greatly by a fine cast, particularly Robert Ryan (yeah, him again, he’s becoming quite a regular on my television) as Nick, aspiring writer who’s besotted by Christabel but is just a (lower) rung on the ladder she’s climbing. Ryan has some great one-liners, delivered with great gusto (“I love you so much I wish I liked you”) and has a wonderfully irreverent, somewhat Bohemian outlook that becomes quite endearing as the film goes on. Fontaine is possibly ill-suited for the role, hardly the manipulative femme fatale the character really should be, but in a weird sort of way, the casting rather works- she looks so sweet and nice one can imagine her hoodwinking everyone around her until finally her over-confidence undoes her, although, as I have noted, the film strangely lets her get away with it, seeing her moving onto other victims in the films coda. Its all daft fun, I suppose, and largely inconsequential, but the fact that she apparently goes unpunished gives this harmless melodrama a certain dash of noir.