RICK’S JOURNAL: My Film Career
When I was in grade school I tried out for a local Little Theatre production at the suggestion of my music teacher. I tried out to be one of the dwarves in Snow White. The Disney version had been my first movie. I loved it and was still living it every day. Trying to be a dwarf felt natural to me.
I did not make the cut at the auditions, and I shouldn’t have. At that age I knew quality when I saw it, and I saw a lot of it that afternoon in more than one hopeful but especially in the older girl trying out for the title character. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Her delicate complexion and very dark hair were perfect for Snow White. Her hair was even trimmed in keeping with the Disney princess. And her acting amazed amateur me. She was afraid, in her part, and she cried; and I believed every word and gesture and every tear. She spoke her lines with an artificiality that I now know meant that she had been the vicitim of the elocution lessons of that day. But talent was obvious, and her beauty overrode all.
She was chosen to play Snow White; and I went back to the Little Theatre, this time as a spectator, and watched her from the third row. The next time I saw her she was on a screen with Charles Boyer and Lauren Bacall and Peter Lorre. Confidential Agent. 1945. Directed by Herman Shumlin. The beautiful Snow White from my hometown was Wanda Hendrix. She would marry America’s most decorated war hero Audie Murphy. The marriage wouldn’t take (seven months); but we local folks were excited about it while it lasted.
Halliwell in his Film Guide describes this as a “heavy-going” adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel, and the adjective feels just right. While the film is always interesting, it lacks the crispness expected in a tale of espionage. But it is, for 1945 Hollywood, surprisingly faithful to Greene’s plot. Elisions and deletions are minimal; and even making the romantic interest an American may have been a good idea, explaining Lauren Bacall’s accent. She herself is on record as calling this a terrible performance. She’s right. But Charles Boyer is excellent though no explanation is offered as to why this Spaniard has a French accent (in ’45 Hollywood, foreign was foreign). Peter Lorre, though per the movel perhaps miscast, is effective — and no harm done. As the hotel owner/brothel keeper Katina Paxinou seems too major a presence for the role. She seems encouraged to act as if she just won an Oscar (For Whom the Bell Tolls). She also looks and sounds as if she might have been dubbed. My own Wanda Hendrix as the maid (in both senses) is splendid, and beautiful; and her English accent is good.
Greene has been morally and politically simplified. But there are some unconventional surprises and some delicious dark corners.
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