Rita Moreno

Garden of Evil (1954, Henry Hathaway)

For a while it seems like the third act of Garden of Evil will make up for the rest of the film’s problems. Or at least give it somewhere to excel. Sadly, director Hathaway and screenwriter Frank Fention inexplicably tack on a terrible coda–tying into the title no less–and effectively wash away any advances they’ve made for the film.

There are lots and lots of problems. Hathaway’s CinemaScope composition is poor (except the finish), even though Milton R. Krasner and Jorge Stahl Jr. shoot the film beautifully. It should have been Academy Ratio and black and white. But those technical choices don’t really make any difference when it comes to the actors.

Cameron Mitchell’s expectedly lame–he’s lame from his first line–but Susan Hayward’s pretty weak too. It seems like she should do well as a jaded woman forced to confront herself and persevere. But she doesn’t. Maybe because Fenton’s plotting doesn’t allow her character to grow naturally. There’s a really good moment towards the end, but she’s otherwise constantly scowling and calling it a performance.

Worse, Gary Cooper’s disinterested. He’s not bad as clearly bored. Garden should have been about his friendship with Richard Widmark–and does start with that emphasis… but it all gets confused.

Widmark’s amazing. Even when the script goes silly on him, he delivers it beautifully.

Great music from Bernard Herrmann, wonderful locations and a somehow not bad script from Fenton make Garden pass, but its defects don’t let it pass well.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Henry Hathaway; screenplay by Frank Fenton, based on a story by Fred Freiberger and William Tunberg; directors of photography, Milton R. Krasner and Jorge Stahl Jr.; edited by James B. Clark; music by Bernard Herrmann; produced by Charles Brackett; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Gary Cooper (Hooker), Susan Hayward (Leah Fuller), Richard Widmark (Fiske), Hugh Marlowe (John Fuller), Cameron Mitchell (Daly), Víctor Manuel Mendoza (Vicente) and Rita Moreno (Vicente’s girl).


The Four Seasons (1981, Alan Alda)

I didn’t read anything about The Four Seasons before watching it–I didn’t even know it was Carol Burnett in a dramatic role (she’s fantastic)–and if I had, maybe I would have had some idea where Alda was taking the film. Because he doesn’t take it where I was expecting, not from the narrative’s apparent intentions.

The film’s broken up over four parts–vacations or getaways, one per season–something else I wasn’t aware of (the title actually just made me wonder if there were four couples)–and the last one has some real problems. The most significant of its problems–besides Rita Moreno’s character’s unexpected and out-of-character silence–is Alda’s refusal to follow-up on the previous season’s events and revelations. At one point, it even comes up in dialogue… only for everyone to dismiss the idea.

It makes the film, full of heavy dramatic potential, into something warm and fuzzy. Affable. It’s unfortunate.

It’s still good, just not as fantastic as it could have been.

Alda’s direction is excellent. He does quiet still shots very well, but then he’ll bring in these frantically edited little dialogue sequences (a soccer game, skiing) set to Vivaldi and it’s clear he knows how to direct movement too.

The cast is great–besides Alda (who only falters in the third act) and Burnett, Rita Moreno, Jack Weston and Bess Armstrong really stand out. It’s a shock Armstrong’s career was so short-lived, based on this one.

A fine picture.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Alan Alda; director of photography, Victor J. Kemper; edited by Michael Economou; production designer, Jack T. Collis; produced by Martin Bregman; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Alan Alda (Jack Burroughs), Carol Burnett (Kate Burroughs), Len Cariou (Nick Callan), Sandy Dennis (Anne Callan), Rita Moreno (Claudia Zimmer), Jack Weston (Danny Zimmer) and Bess Armstrong (Ginny Newley).


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