Joan Fontaine gives yet another brilliant performance (in a role first offered to sister Olivia de Havilland) in Ivy, an immensely entertaining Edwardian thriller based on Marie Belloc Lowndes’s novel The Story of Ivy. Miles Rushworth, who is stinking rich, is the villain; his refusal to have an affair with sexually ambitious Ivy Lexton because she is married compels Ivy to murder her spouse and frame her lover, thereby clearing her bed for him. She thus takes the first step; will Miles step up to the plate for the girl he desires?
This expensive production boasts an array of distinguished artists and technicians, including production designer William Cameron Menzies, black-and-white cinematographer Russell Metty, editor Ralph Dawson, scorer Daniele Amfitheatrof. What the film doesn’t have, because the director is Sam Wood, is any point of view or unifying theme. I have enjoyed this film time and time again, principally for Fontaine’s dazzling acting as a young woman in over her head in a cold, cruel world, but I have never been able to determine what, if anything, this film is about. Wood, the quintessential big-budget Hollywood hack, doesn’t make films that are about something.
But, as usual, Wood, however intellectually bereft he may be, is technically adept. Surely, along with the others I have already mentioned, he contributed something to the stunning finish where an overwrought Ivy, as the bothersome law closes in, falls down an elevator shaft.
Only one other cast member gives an excellent performance: Una O’Connor as Mrs. Thrawn, the drawn seer who will not disclose to Ivy the abrupt end that is in store for her. Giving the worst performance, as she almost invariably does, is Lucile Watson, who plays Ivy’s lover’s sanctimonious mother. Ivy should have gotten rid of that one, too.
B(U)Y THE BOOK
MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.