Monday, October 16, 2006

Carrie (1952)

How could I have missed seeing William Wyler's 1952 adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie? Laurence Olivier, Jennifer Jones, Miriam Hopkins and Eddie Albert star in this overlooked classic film--a painfully powerful melodrama in which a small-town girl makes good (eventually), while her desperate older paramour sinks into the gutter (after she leaves him). The story and characters are so vivid and tabloid--yet realistic--that they seem torn from today's headlines. Maybe you'll think of Anna Nicole Smith, or the battling Astor Family in New York. I can see why Russians love Dreiser. It's not really that his stories are about capitalism, rather that they are about the foolish mistakes people make, and the suffering which follows. Drink, depression, and death dance around Laurence Olivier's tragic portrayal of Mr. Hurstwood. He's romantic and rotten at the same time. Eddie Albert's Mr. Drouet, while immoral, seems like a nice guy in comparison. Jennifer Jones is irresistible, and her story arc believable. And Miriam Hopkins as the wronged wife almost steals the show. Wyler directed Wuthering Heights and The Heiress, as well as films such as The Best Years of Our lives. He's a master of melodrama and tragic sentiment, and this is an almost perfect film. The flophouse sequence is just chilling.

Five stars. You can add it to your Netflix queue...