Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Embraceable You (1948)

A good love story, some believe, should have the feeling of a crime, with the lovers as a pair of secretive conspirators whose experience of mutual discovery, wonder and longing, is theirs alone--though a susceptible viewer can be drawn in too. So it is with  Embraceable You (1948), a "B" movie from Warner Brothers studio, which gave a veteran dialogue director at Warner Brothers, Felix Jacoves, a chance to make a small scale film with two promising contract players at the studio, Dane Clark and Geraldine Brooks. It was Clark's twentieth movie since 1940, but only Brooks' third film role, and her first leading part. The little 80 minute film was unexpectedly touching, not because it broke new ground dramatically, but because of the striking wistfulness of its brief story, and the sensitive playing of the two leads, who meshed believably, animating their characters despite the limitations of the formulaic aspects of the production.
Dane Clark with that hunted look that he wore so well in that period.
The film begins with a crime--a hit and run accident that occurs when an underworld flunky, Eddie Novoc (Dane Clark), drives his shady gambler boss, Sig Kelch (Rod Rogers) through the cavernous streets of New York. Eddie unfortunately strikes a young woman with his car, but drives on at the urging of Kelch, who has much to hide. Despite his dark connections, Eddie's lingering decent instincts lead him to seek out the girl at the hospital, posing as an absent brother's friend. Bringing her roses that he can ill afford and visiting with her without telling her it was he behind the wheel, Eddie has an awkward tenderness that indicates his nervous eagerness to believe that  seeing her sitting up in bed means all is well. A gracious Marie Willens (Geraldine Brooks), who had lost her job at a nightclub recently, receives his attentions with just a hint of coyness, trying, as she later confesses, "to play you, to work you--for all I could get."

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