TWIST OF FATE aka BEAUTIFUL STRANGER (1954)
Running Time: 89 mins. Rating: xx Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: David Miller
Distributor: United Artists
Cast: Ginger Rogers, Herbert Lom, Stanley Baker, Jacques Bergerac, Margaret Rawlings, Eddie Byrne, Coral Browne, Lisa Gastoni
A stinker but an educational one.
British filmmakers faced what they thought was a problem. They spoke English (of a sort), which meant that they should be able to make some money in the US . This was necessary because UK returns weren’t enough to make really big money. The problem, as they saw it then, was that they needed some star appeal for the Americans. Even going back to the twenties they would import American film star to headline the production and hope that people would go to the theaters expecting a first class Hollywood picture and buy a ticket before they found out it was a cheapo British movie by which time it would be too late.
Their big mistake is importing a ‘star’ with no box office appeal, or more, likely one who was over the hill, a bit passé, the news of which hadn’t caught up in London. Of course it was the alternative that worked, (such as Ealing comedies) – unknown but superb actors in a well written and directed film was more successful and wound up with the unknown star going to Hollywood- e.g. James Mason, Maureen O’Hara, Richard Harris, Richard Burton ad infinitum.
Along with the star it was common practice to import a director and a cameraman. Many of the best British cameramen of a generation started as assistants to some Hollywood ‘old pro.’ The British had an inferiority complex about their own directors.
For this film they imported Ginger Rogers and David Miller. Rogers was 40+ and her career was winding down. She made a picture with Fred Astaire THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY in ’49 and MONKEY BUSINESS with Howard Hawks and Cary Grant in ’52 but it was the co-star that everybody noticed and I don’t mean the chimp (i.e. Marilyn Monroe). Miller was a superior hack, fully capable of rendering a good script like SATURDAY’S HERO but not able to save a turgid one like BACK STREET.
The script for BEAUTIFUL STRANGER (TWIST OF FATE) is a derivative rehash of what was mildly popular as a second feature a few years before. In other words – a noir. The dialogue seems to be the type where one expects an actor to turn to the camera and remark ‘We’re all in a movie, aren’t we?’ The real potential star of the picture, Stanley Baker, is miscast and badly used as the heavy of the piece, the fifteen-year age difference between Rogers and him poorly covered up with grey streaks in his hair. Herbert Lom is a thief and a foreigner and crazy and doing none of them well. Jacques Bergerac was the nominal hero because he was the best looking etc. This was his film debut and was Ginger Rogers fourth husband at the time. Bosco, I believe, is the Italian word for wood and a piece of wood could have done a better acting job. I’m sure he must have had some other talents.
To make matters worse the film was shot on location on the French Riviera. Not a classic noir location. Once away from the Hollywood Studio system Miller seems unable to stage even the simplest fight or action sequence. Never has the Riviera looked duller (the film is shot without any inspiration or color). I’m not too sure if it wasn’t shot in Devon. A stinker but an educational one.
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