He Chose the Wrong Woman

Discussion in 'The Moving Picture' started by Fading Fast, Jul 27, 2014.

  1. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    In several movies, the male lead ends up with the woman that the writer or director - or more likely the production code - thought he should be with, but sometimes, another women in the movie - who was only supposed to be a foil for the female lead - turns out, in my opinion, being the woman you want the male lead to end up with.

    I'll kick this off with two examples (spoiler alert - if you haven't seen these movies and care about the plot, don't read on).

    In "Gentleman's Agreement" Gregory Peck's character dates Dorothy McGuire's character though out and, despite some ups and downs, winds up with her. She is "right" for him, in that she is young and classically pretty, comes from a good background, wants to have a home and children and has a conventional morality that, basically, survives the challenge at the heart of the story. However, along the way, Peck's character meets Celeste Holm's character and you can feel the spark, but she is (maybe) older than he is, a world-wise career woman, a New Yorker, a bit cynical and quirky attractive - not the right woman for Peck's very upstanding character.

    But she is. The two of them can understand each other by exchanging a glance without words. Their strengths and weaknesses compliment each other and they have chemistry. You can see why the conventional thinking (the production code) or guardrails of 1940s' movies didn't let these two get together, but I've always felt they would have made a better couple and have a better future. I'm always disappointed when they don't end up together.

    The same type of scenario plays out in "The Lost Weekend." Here, Ray Miland's intemperate character dates the "good" woman played by Jane Wyman who has all the nurturing and caring traits of the 1940s' idealized woman and, in the end, he winds up with her. But along the way, Miland's character interacts with Doris Dowling's character - a street-wise (maybe prostitute) who completely gets the joke, knows the seedy side of life and has a passion for Miland's character that is powerfully obvious in their few scenes together. He feels natural with her - not stilted as he does with Wyman's character. Once again, I'm always disappointed when he wind up with Jane Wyman's character and not Dowling's as that seems like the woman he would have a real relationship with.

    I have a few more, but will add them later if this string builds out at all.

    Do others have examples?
     
  2. Fastuni

    Fastuni Call Me a Cab

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    Two reverse examples, where the woman ends up with a male character that I found mismatched:

    US wartime flick "A guy named Joe" (1943): Irene Dunn comes together with a bratty, spoiled, millionaire frat-boy without any charisma (played by Van Johnson) and Spencer Tracy is OK with it.
    Granted... the Spencer Tracy character is already dead by that time and observes them as an "guardian angel" - and I can't blame Irene Dunn for preferring a living man to a dead one :p - but still the end is unsatisfying.

    Legendary late-war (released post-war) German film "Grosse Freiheit Nr. 7" (1944): The coy rural girl lost in "immoral" Hamburg, played by Ilse Werner frustrates the advances of the "salty" but protective older merchant captain played by Hans Albers, in favor of a younger, rather annoying, "witty" shipyard-worker played by Hans Söhnker. A rather unconventional ending with Werner and Albers, despite the rather large age-gap, would have been interesting.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2014
  3. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Agree completely on the first one - Van Johnson annoyed me though out that movie. I am not familiar with "Grose Freiheit Nr. 7" but will keep an eye out for it.
     
  4. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

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    Last night I watched The Big Clock with Ray Miland, Maureen O'Sullivan, Rita Johnson and Charles Laughton.

    Miland works for Charles "Captain Bligh" Laughton as a $30,000 a year magazine editor ( in 1948 dollars). He is about to leave on a vacation that has been postponed for 6 or 7 years by the demanding Laughton. When Laughton threatens to fire him and blacklist him from ever working in publishing if he doesn't postpone it again, he walks out anyway.

    He then proceeds to stand up his wife and miss the train because he is out drinking with a woman he just met. This is Laughton's mistress who is trying to interest him in a blackmail scheme.

    How can I believe that he is so determined to take this long delayed vacation that he is willing to throw over the best job he ever had or ever will have? And then fools away his time with this woman he just met and missed his train?

    The whole thing is stupid but, without it they don't have a story.

    I agree it is not quite the same thing, but he did spend time with a woman who was of no interest to him, over his wife who he loves enough to quit his job over.
     
  5. Flat Foot Floey

    Flat Foot Floey My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Glenn Miller movies do this a lot. I only watch them for costumes and music but the plot always sucks. Men can be playboys but women have to be innocent and domesticated.
     
  6. Two Types

    Two Types I'll Lock Up

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    Gloria in The Lost Weekend is a fantastic character. Full of life, gutsy and attractive - what's not to like?
     
  7. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Don't you wish Ray Milland's character has chosen her and not the saintly Jane Wyman's character?
     
  8. Two Types

    Two Types I'll Lock Up

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    Absolutely! If i recall correctly, her first appearance in the film is when she 'clucks', points at Milland and says "Looking Good!" (or something like that). She is what I'd describe as a 'sauce pot'.

    I'm trying to think of other examples and i can't think of any. When the situation is reversed (i.e. the woman choses the wrong man) it would probably be a film where the man who loses out reminds me of me!
     
  9. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    Another movie in which the male lead choses the wrong women is "Separate Tables" (which is also one of my favorite under-appreciated classics).

    Burt Lancaster plays the male lead who is an alcoholic writer recovering from a stormy marriage and divorce at a small inn in coastal England in the late 1950s. The inn keeper - played by Wendy Hiller - has developed a relationship with Lancaster. She understand him; she knows he is troubled, emotional, angry and she has a compassion and will that helps him, that tamps down his worst instincts and inclinations.

    Does she love him - yes. Does he love her - maybe, in the I-need-you sense, but not in the full-on-passion sense. Then, the ex wife - played with all her movie-star va va voom by Rita Hayworth - shows up to get Lancaster back. Now, his full-on passion takes control and (alert - spoiler if you haven't seen this movie) after a hour or so of tugging, revelations and drama, Lancaster chooses the selfish, self-centered and bad-for-him Hayworth and leaves Hiller.

    As it ends, you know Lancaster and Hayworth will smash up again and Hiller is headed for a lonely life.

    He really, really chose the wrong woman.

    N.B to Worf - I know you have, at least, an entry or two for this thread in that deep and diverse library of movies you carry around in your head.
     
  10. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    You mean other than "Casablanca." I'm partially kidding, as we know Ilsa chose Laszio for honorable reasons, but you know her libido wanted Rick.

    And in "So I Married a Witch" Veronica Lake's character had too much spirit, fun, lust for life to have chosen Fredric March's stiff, stuffy character. I don't think she chose him over another, but she should have chosen to remain single.
     
  11. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    At the risk of igniting Doctor Strange's ire again, I'd argue that in An American in Paris, Gene Kelly chooses the wrong woman.

    It's the Hollywood "I just saw you and fell madly in love despite knowing nothing about you" thing trumping the "this is a smart woman who understands me and will make a great life partner" thing.

    Kelly chooses Leslie Caron - a cute French waif he hardly knows and hardly has anything in common with - over the intelligent, more-mature and invested-in-his-career Nina Foch.

    Hey, it's Hollywood and it does its thing, but as the kids would say, IRL, Kelly and Foch would make the better marriage IMO.

    (My comments - followed by Doctor Strange's two posts down - here: https://www.thefedoralounge.com/thr...ovie-you-watched.20830/page-1350#post-2582793)
     
  12. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    Just a few random comments: It is HUGELY common in Hollywood movies that a man and a woman fall in love because the script says they do and for no other reasons ... except maybe that they are movie stars and, as we all know, movie stars (in real life) seem to fall in love for no real reason. Now, a lot of that is typically because films are time limited and you only have a few minutes (sometimes seconds) to get your leads together because there is lots of other plot to try and squeeze onto the screen in your 90 to 120 minutes (read: pages).

    An exception that I used for teaching purposed: Stakeout (1987) written by Jim Kouf. Here there is a brilliant scene where Richard Dreyfus, a cop who is doing surveillance on the ex-girlfiend of an escaped felon, barges into her apartment to defend her from a man who he first thinks is the felon/boyfriend but then realizes is just the drunk boyfriend of a friend of hers. Dreyfus has previously introduced himself as a telephone company repairman (to plant bugs in her apt) but he now has to manage an unruly drunk. Well, he's done this all his career as a cop, so he's VERY good at it. Compassionate, forceful, quick and intelligent. As the scene progresses you can see the young woman falling for him. The irony is she thinks he's special because she thinks he's a phone man who's just amazingly good at this ... she doesn't know he's good at it because he's lying to her. Anyway, WHY people fall in love or WHAT they see in one and other is too often neglected, often because of time pressure.

    Also, Hollywood is not a good place to be exposed to good romantic models. It's full of narcissistic and opportunistic people and its screen writers are at the bottom of the pecking order with everyone else taking the opportunity to grind them down to inflate their own value. Screenwriters often have a pretty bad vision of what makes a good or realistic or even entertaining romance. There was a time when it was in fashion for the protagonists of films to connect with prostitutes (around the era of Pretty Woman, though in that case the protagonist WAS a prostitute), this was a reflection of the decaying of relations between men and women in Hollywood.
     
  13. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    It's also worth noting that when you write the script, you never know who is going to be cast ... and the casting of a star is often "political" in that many people from executives to agents need to be allowed their wield their input and influence. So the "best" cast to get a movie green lit is not necessarily the best cast artistically.

    Not too long ago when casting an Audio Drama I ended up with two men and two women who could make up the unhappily married couple in the script. All four actors were excellent and easy to work with: The late James Rebhorn, Traci Dinwiddie, Time Winters and Laurie Searle. Rebhorn played his part a bit on the "hard" side, Winters pulled out slightly neurotic aspects, Dinwiddie and Searle were Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall, respectively. In isolation each was perfect, given you realized (as all dramatists know) that they would deliver different interpretations of the script. In reality there was only one pairing that would work, Winters and Dinwiddie. Rebhorn and Searle were both so strong from the outset, character-wise you couldn't imagine the marriage having lasted very long. They'd have destroyed each other before the story started. Winters and Dinwiddie could play a couple that was incompatible but still discovering that fact. Dinwiddie allowed you to DISCOVER her strength as the story went along. In a TV production setting, there'd have been all sorts of people forcing us to make the wrong choices for the wrong reasons.

    Here's a list of finalists for two different parts in another project I worked on. If you know their work, you can tell that some of them deliver very different values:

    1) Madam of a bordello - Linda Koslowski, Jamie Rose, Linda Purl, Joanna Pacula, Ann Magnuson, Peta Wilson.

    2) Frontier school teacher - Hilary Swank, Sarah Paulson, Gretchen Mol, Meredith Salenger.

    At the time, because of shifting fortunes, no one in either category was clearly the "celebrity winner." All gave excellent auditions.
     
  14. Doctor Strange

    Doctor Strange I'll Lock Up

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    There's no problem here, FF.

    As we discussed in those posts you referenced, An American in Paris is a MGM musical... and thus a FANTASY in every regard. Love at first sight is par for the course. If you believe the rest of the film, you'll believe the love story too!

    But I'm not convinced in-story that Kelly would be better off with Nina Foch from what we see of them. She's too take-charge for his typical-for-then male privilege, and he wouldn't have been able to stay with her long term without rebelling.
     

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