Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Sleeping Tiger - 1954


“The Sleeping Tiger” (1954) is a little like a Rorschach test -- an ink blot image whose design can be interpreted in different ways, but for which there is no "right" answer, or at least no conclusive answer.

All movies are subject to interpretation. This movie, either by intention, or the serendipitous marriage between a dynamic director and a quirky script, invites us, teases us to interpret whole scenes and even small gestures -- but never to be too sure about our conclusions.   Our conclusions change, sometimes minute by minute, depending on how we hold up the inkblot.

This story embodies the personality of Alexander Knox, who plays the unflappable psychiatrist putting his wife and his patient through an emotional and psychological obstacle course.

His habit is to usually answer a question put to him, no matter how ordinary or innocuous, with another question (re: "Do you want some coffee?" -- "Is there any reason why you think I should want coffee?")...in the probing manner of a psychoanalyst. So does the director of this movie. You want to slap both of them after a while. We are never really given conclusions, only more questions, and sometimes this works to make the film fascinating, and sometimes it makes us frankly annoyed and impatient for a simple answer.

The director is Joseph Losey, who also gave us “The Prowler” (1951), which we discussed here. In this film’s credits he is listed as Victor Hanbury. He left the US in the early 1950s to escape the House Un-American Activities witch hunt, and worked for a time, as did many blacklisted filmmakers, under a pseudonym.

By the way, this post is going to be one long SPOILER. If you don’t want to know anything, then go into the kitchen and make me a cup of tea. Do the dishes while you’re out there. And see if the mail came.

It’s also going to be an excruciatingly long post. Yeah, big surprise.

The setting is England in the mid 1950s, still wearing its post-War bleakness. We haven’t got to Swinging London yet, that’s for later on in the Cold War.  The script is taut, and often a curious mixture of intelligent lines, but hard-to-swallow plot turns. We are prodded to question our assumptions -- at the same time we are told to accept what seems improbable.

We start with improbability.  Dirk Bogarde is a thief in his early 20s, a former juvenile delinquent now settling satisfactorily into a life of unending crime and violence. He attempts to mug Alexander Knox on a dark street, but the good Doctor had hand-to-hand combat training in the late war. Knox also collects psychological guinea pigs the way Dr. Frankenstein collects brains. He fights him off and convinces Bogarde to stay in his home for a six-month psychotherapy experiment. Bogarde agrees to avoid going to jail.

Alexis Smith is Knox’s wife, just returning from a trip alone to Paris and finding a sneering Bogarde in her living room. Cool, with the appearance of a somewhat bored sophisticate (how many times has she played that part?), she is amazingly far less perturbed about a street criminal staying as a guest in her home than is their shrill, opinionated maid, played by Patricia McCarron.

“How are his manners?” Alexis asks her husband, as if she were a school matron taking on a new charge. When one has a criminal under one’s roof, manners should be the least concern, but this is a clue to her personality. Even the most evil intent can be hidden with charming manners. Alexis does not like to look below the surface, unlike her husband. She is unsettled by what she may find there in others -- and in herself. She leaves probing under layers to the Doc.

Rounding out the family circle is Maxine Audley, who plays Knox’s lab assistant. She is perhaps the biggest question mark of the bunch. Always present with the Doc in his office, always seated at the dining room table where they have dressed for dinner and trade pleasantries over wine, always following the Doc out the door when he leaves for one of his many nightly lectures or board meetings. We are told very little about her, and so of course we wonder. It isn’t until well into the film we discover Alexis wonders as well.

It’s a low-budget film, you can see that from the start. A few shots of dark village streets under dim streetlamps, most of the film shot in the claustrophobic confines of their home. And it’s a public domain film, so of course the print could be better.

Dirk Bogarde’s manners, to begin with, are terrible. He is snide, rude, and quite mean to the maid when nobody is looking. He bullies her because he cannot bully Alexis or the Doc. He is immature, sullen, and resentful. He chafes under Doc’s grilling of his childhood memories.

These sessions take place in Knox’s office, which is in the home. His office is a stark contrast to the rest of the house, which appears cozy-cluttered, with dark wainscoting and bowls of flowers. And several photographs of Alexis.

His lair is spare, walls painted white, a set of narrow frosted windows placed high on the wall reminding one of an institutional infirmary, with modern furniture, peg-legged, Scandinavian design, utilitarian and not a bit cozy or ornamental.

There is a piece of modern art on the wall which the police inspector, played by Hugh Griffith, scrutinizes in frank puzzlement. This is the room of a man of unsentimental intellect and bold drive to expose naked the emotions and psyches of those who enter it. Curiously, he keeps his own emotions well hidden, or controlled, or perhaps he hasn’t any.

But Alexander Knox plays the man with such a pleasant, easygoing, almost guileless devotion to the truth. He is honorable, and we trust him. He does not appear cold or indifferent, though his actions reflect an ironic insensitivity. On a mission to tackle the obsessions of others, he does not realize how obsessed he is with his work.

The Doc keeps a loaded revolver in his desk which we see from time to time, and one wonders at the lack of prudence, but we always seem to find loaded guns, and open checkbooks, in desk drawers in the old movies, don’t we? I think they are a more common plot contrivance than boy-meets-girl.

However, we also have boy-meets-girl. Alexis, who spends several hours almost every day horseback riding (she seems to have very little else to do), is urged by her husband to take Bogarde along. She’s not happy about babysitting his patient, but they ride together and over a montage of scenes we see they share a similar restlessness that is relieved by the freedom of galloping fast. They both want to escape. He gets a little too familiar with the Doc’s lady, but she is more than capable of verbally slapping him down, back to his place as a street thug and object of charity.

“I despise hoodlums of any kind…they’re just stupid little animals asking for cages.”

They are left alone in each other’s company when the Doc goes out with his lab assistant -- a restful evening listening to oddly cacophonous symphonic music from the radio, fortified by cigarettes, brandy snifters, and the thrust and parry of quiet conversation. Ah, those days when we could amuse ourselves at home without 500 cable channels or 500 text messages.

Alexis is not afraid to be alone with Bogarde. She seems to want him to know this. She wears the protective armor of her own superiority.

All three principals have great roles in this movie, and they perform very well. Mr. Knox plays that fine line of unwitting cruelty in a mask of cultured academia. Dirk Bogarde, though in real life the same age as Alexis Smith, convincingly plays a younger man just clawing his way out of boyhood. He flip-flops in his manners and attitudes so smoothly that we don’t always know when he is putting someone on, including his seduction of Alexis Smith.

Miss Smith reportedly once remarked in an interview that in many films she did not wear shoes on set, to make her appear less tall against shorter actors. It might have been done in this shot, as she was actually a wee bit taller than Dirk Bogarde. More on the tall girl’s career in this previous post.

Alexis, bewitching in this dark role, starts the movie as a cool customer, classy and almost as self contained as the Doc, but by the end she downward spirals helplessly into an emotional train wreck. It was one of her last starring film roles and she must have savored the challenge.

We gradually learn all about Dirk Bogarde through his sessions with the Doc, because he tells us about his past, even when he lies about it. We do not have this open conduit to the other characters. Alexis reveals only briefly to Bogarde, meant as a put-down on his bad behavior, that she had an unhappy childhood, came from a broken home, and that her mother hated her.

“I made a life for myself just the same,” she slams him, not allowing him the convenient excuse of a bad childhood to entitle him to bad behavior as an adult. But Bogarde, bored with being the Doc’s guinea pig decides to get one for himself. Her. He astutely accuses her:

“You’re a phoney…inside you’ve got nothing. You’re empty. You’re hungry….You’re a tight wire and it wouldn’t take very much to break you.”

The thing is, he’s right. There’s a volcano under that black cocktail dress with the pearl choker. What was she like before her marriage with the Doc? How much did Knox do to hammer down her insecurities, or bolster her sense of self worth, or suppress her desires to make her the intelligent but bloodless Galatea she seems at the beginning of the movie? He took away the taint of her bad childhood with the prize of a secure marriage to an intellectual giant. But what did he give her?

The Doc clearly has regard for his wife. He talks shop with her constantly, interested in her opinion. They are equals. But there is nothing more than a chaste peck on the cheek between them, even when she has returned from a vacation she took by herself. He constantly apologizes for putting his work ahead of her, but one senses he is not deeply troubled by it.

His wife and his lab assistant are like a platonic harem over which he is lord. His manner of being completely unaware of this, and what seems his earnest desire to help Dirk Bogarde makes Knox a still likeable character, fascinating for his contradictions.  I love the contrast between his short military haircut and Bogarde's abundant pompadour.

Hugh Griffith comes around snooping for dirt on Mr. Bogarde, whom he is tracking like Inspector Javert. The Doc keeps covering for, even at some points, lying for Bogarde, putting himself and his professional reputation on the line in an extraordinary way.

And he persists in peeling away Bogarde’s protective lies about himself. Knox wants to know if he liked his stepmother.

Bogarde relents and describes her, “Tall, blonde, very smart. All ice on the outside and rotten inside.” He hated her. Is he describing Alexis, too?

In a later scene, rolling around on the ground cuddling together (“Follies” fans - “Could I bury my rage/With a boy half your age/In the grass? Bet your ass!”) -- he lays his head on her chest a moment and they appear that instant almost as a son taking comfort in his mother.

He gets back at the Doc by sneaking out to commit robberies. He gets back at Alexis by probing her emotional hunger and suppressed desire.

At one point, she catches him bullying the maid, and she is furious. She wants to deck him (why do directors of old movies insist women fight with polished claws extended. Like tigers? If I wanted to deck somebody for being nasty to the maid, I’d make a fist and fire off a haymaker at the cad), but he grabs her, and forces a kiss under which Alexis struggles, and then accepts, and then wants more. As he predicted, it doesn’t take much to break her. The more he breaks her down, the more she opens up.

“Don’t pretend you don’t like winding people up like little toys,” Alexis says in a rare moment of sniping at Knox. We see that she is more aware of things under the surface than she may have previously wanted to admit. Little by little she’s losing her protective reserve and finding the courage to look.


Left alone with Bogarde on another night, they prepare to go the movies together. He knots his tie at his mirror -- where another photo of Alexis has found a place on his dresser. She’s at her own mirror, excited, fingertips dabbing perfume behind her ears. They are Tony and Maria getting ready for date. Tonight…tonight…



But there’s no good movie, so she dares him to take her to his favorite hangout, a dingy club where 20-somethings writhe to bebop played by an African-American jazz combo. The musicians are cool, tight, and it sounds almost like the birthing pains of rock n’ roll.

Look at the guy perspiring as he plays his trumpet, cigarette burning in his free fingers. He’s in his own little world, in the throes of his passion, but free of everything else.  His torment and his escape from it are the same.  They are Americans, outsiders here and appreciated for being outsiders and being authentic musicians.

Interestingly, Alexis is an American, as Bogarde notes. I don’t know why she would not have been English, since she was able to do accents perfectly well, but being American also makes her an outsider, a stranger in a strange land. There the discussion of her origins ends. Too bad, we want more back story on her.

The other distinctive music in the film is the bluesy saxophone we hear whenever Alexis and Bogarde are together.

She is amused at slumming here, and teasingly tries to emulate the kids who cling to each other in couples by pressing herself against Bogarde. He verbally smacks her down, as well as with a cruel grip on her neck, just as she has discouraged him previously, and she is humiliated at being rejected. Like the horses they ride, he has learned when to give her her head, and when to rein her in.

At the same time, parallel to the development of their relationship, Doc has made progress in his therapy with Bogarde. They are forming a father-son union, something Bogarde is just beginning to realize he craves. Doc also wants to pursue the playacting of a father figure, but not to fulfill any emotional needs of his own -- he hasn’t any. It’s merely fascinating research. Bogarde is a specimen in a jar.

One day he catches Bogarde playfully pestering Alexis in the kitchen, trying to steal a kiss. Alexis is rattled at their being caught by her husband, and feigns the act of a virtuous wife on whom liberties have been taken. She demands an apology, and Bogarde plays along, apologizing. The scene gets more interesting when Bogarde leaves and Knox wants to know what brought the incident about, and Alexis fibs that Bogarde insinuated there is something romantic between Knox and his lab assistant. “He implied that you were neglecting me.” She does have not have the courage to confront the Doc herself, but we see this has been on her mind for some time.

The Doc does not deny it; the accusation is barely noticed by him, except with what appears to be faint amusement. Would Lab Assistant be amused at his amusement?  I wonder.  Instead he vacillates on whether to kick Bogarde out of their home now that he appears to be a danger to his wife, but the experiment is just too interesting to him. Perhaps if Alexis insisted he leave? She does not.

On another evening alone with Bogarde, they go to the jazz club again, and she’s having a blast. He is the responsible one, taking control, reminding her it’s time to leave. She doesn’t want to, and he daringly asserts that he’s “ready for a showdown” with her husband anytime she says.

His remark rebuffs her like a girl, but at the same time challenges her to be a big girl and decide what she wants. She can’t yet. A sudden, surprising fit of hysteria and she nearly knocks out the window of the car with a block of wood because she can’t open the door with her key. She drives like a maniac through winding country lanes, and then pulls over into a wooded copse to avoid the cops and let loose a crying jag, conflicted by her feelings and terrified at what is happening to her. Bogarde’s painful manner of closing his eyes when she wails, part concern, part relief, and part disgust, is one of his most eloquent actions. He’s creating a monster. He is just beginning to feel the consequences of it.

Meanwhile, the Doc, covering up for Bogarde again, pontificates, “All of us are capable of anything given the right provocation…in the dark forest of every human there’s a tiger -- a sleeping tiger.”

Tonight, it’s his wife.

While she’s beginning her downward spiral, Bogarde is being tamed by the Doc. In a climactic scene, the Doc finally penetrates Bogarde’s childhood torment over a father who abused him, and whose sudden death haunts him. Bogarde has a good scene here, breaking down and sobbing the story of his life. He feels comfortable at last to tell Knox because Knox has defended him time and again to the police and come to his rescue, supporting and nurturing him in a way his father never did. In case we miss that message, there is a melodramatic ending to scene where Bogarde swoons from the emotional effort and faints on the floor.

Alexis is surprised to see the Doc emerge from his office carrying Bogarde in his arms, taking him to his bedroom upstairs. The picture of father and son, or Pygmalion with a new Galatea.

We know from the fact of his subduing Dirk Bogarde at the beginning of the movie, which happens off camera, that Knox is a physically powerful man. Bogarde still bears the bruise on his twisted wrist. His first chastisement from Papa. When we see Knox carry Bogarde, it strikes us that not once in this movie has Knox ever taken Alexis in his arms.

We see there is a triangle here, not with the lab assistant, though she’s still in the ballgame. Alexis has lost her lover to her husband. They spend father-son fishing trips from which she is excluded.

She anticipates their homecoming excitedly, but only Doc comes home, and only because he remembered he has a paper to write. He did not come home to be with her, and Bogarde is distancing himself because he now thinks the Doc is a swell guy, and he feels guilty about luring his wife into cheating on him. She is more lonely now than she ever was before Bogarde came into their lives.

The Doc just gets more and more interesting. How much does he really know about their relationship? He declares Bogarde is cured. He confesses how hard his job has been, that as a therapist he is not supposed to show fear, dislike, or jealousy.

“Jealousy?” Alexis asks. Is she flattered that he might be jealous of Bogarde’s time with her? Or is she worried that he knows about her passion for Bogarde?

He suggests that he and Alexis should go on a vacation together. Earlier she would have jumped at the chance, but now she doesn’t want to leave Bogarde and she can’t tell the Doc that. What power over her does he have that she simply cannot ask him for a divorce? She becomes secretive and paranoid. She finds Bogarde at the inn where he is staying now and begs him to come back. “You’ve never seen me really angry. I warn you, you don’t know what I’m capable of.” It’s not a threat, it’s an intriguing, whimpered confession and is one of those elements in the script that gets dropped in but never explained.

But Bogarde is firm in breaking up with her because he just can’t hurt the Doc anymore. When he returns to their house to pack up his things, she finally rages at the humiliation to which he’s subjected her.

“You’re not going to give me notice like a waitress.” In her torment she has bit the back of her hand until it bleeds, finds the blood on her mouth. She’s gone over the edge. She staggers to the Doc, inferring that Bogarde became violent. Goads him into doing something about it, demanding some emotional response from him.  Doc goes for his handy dandy handgun in the desk drawer to avenge his wife.

Lab assistant tries to stop him (my heavens, this woman is always skulking around), but we hear the sound of a shot, and Alexis, shattered,

“You killed him?” she asks when Doc emerges from Bogarde’s room.

“That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?” The man of science. We see that it’s a trick. He never shot Bogarde. He wanted to jolt Alexis into confessing her feelings for him. How long has he suspected? This man never lets a chance pass to do an experiment, to “wind up people like little toys.” What must it be like to live with a man who turns every encounter with his wife into a psychotherapy session?

When Bogarde swooned to the floor, Knox cradled him in his arms. When his wife crumples to the floor in a sobbing, confused mess, he stands over her with probing questions and a shining light in his narrow eyes in what is probably the most cruel scene in the movie.  Doc is not a fiend, but his relentless clinical approach to everything has cruel repercussions.  They are both tragic.

Alexis bolts out of the house, now that she knows Bogarde has gone and there still might be a chance for her to catch him.

Finally…finally, we get some plot exposition from the lab assistant, who tries to keep Doc from going after her, “Let her go. It’s been wrong between you for years. You’ll never put it right.”

Whoa, about time, lady. Where were you in the first reel?

But what exactly do you mean? Riddles are pointless without solutions.

There’s a bit of a chase scene here, and the upshot is Alexis drives through what appears to be a circus billboard with a lunging tiger painted on it. She dies. Did I mention there would be spoilers?

I have a problem with the protagonist dying at the end of movies like this. Wages of sin and all, I know, but still, it smacks of laziness and the writer’s inability to find a resolution so it’s just more convenient to kill the character off.

We have no resolution for anybody, except that Bogarde intends to give himself up to Hugh Griffith to set things straight. But Doc expresses no emotion at the physical wreckage of his wife anymore than he did her emotional wreckage. Lab assistant, always prepared, remembers to grab his coat as they leave together for the chase scene. What is her story?

This is a film where the set decoration tells us much (or at least is supposed to) about the story and characters. We see that Alexis and Doc have twin beds in their room, but whenever she is in a bedroom with Bogarde it’s on a double bed. We get the message about Doc’s personality from his office. But the photos of Alexis all over the house are put there for what message?

In classic films I think we tend to know little about set designers, at least not as much as we know of costumers or cinematographers. In theatre they are immensely important because when it comes to deciphering a set, theatre audiences tend to be more sophisticated than film audiences. They know that everything on the set is there for a specific reason. The stage director hasn’t the luxury of a film director of soaking up a variety of images just by panning the camera. All he has to work with is this space.

Among classic film directors, I think Alfred Hitchcock was the most cognizant about this, the most theatrical, and obviously left his mark on every frame. You just know everything’s in the shot for a reason. Joseph Losey gives us as much as he can with “The Sleeping Tiger” in terms of imagery (including a couple of interesting mirror shots) -- again, which sometimes provoke more questions than answers, but some answers can only be provided in the script. And they aren’t there. We come to know all we need to about Dirk Bogarde, but the others in the original triangle -- Doc, Wife, and Lab Assistant -- are still beyond our reach.



The movie is one of a string of films made in this period about the mysteries of psychoanalysis, movies often lurid and fantastic, but in this case it’s interesting that psychology is used as the basis of a love triangle, and for manipulation. What Doc does is on purpose. What Bogarde does is on purpose. Only Alexis seems powerless, losing her grip on her emotions and on her thinking bit by bit until she destroys herself with her obsession.

As mentioned in Monday’s post, this movie is on YouTube here in a single file. Please go have a look, and when you’ve seen it, come back and tell me what you think. For once, we can all watch the same movie together. Pass the popcorn. And, as The Muppets say, no singing opera during the movie.

21 comments:

The Lady Eve said...

I was completely unaware of this one, but it sounds fascinating - even knowing the plot, spoilers and all. I remember Joseph Losey for "The Servant" and "The Go-Between." There's another film of his I've been curious about - "Mr. Klein." Funny thing is, it was years before I realized Losey wasn't English, but had fled the U.S. during HUAC's reign of terror. Great post on what seems an intriguing (and frustrating?) film.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks, Lady Eve. I think it's easy to assume Losey was English, as when he left for Europe, I don't think he ever came back. I'd love to know what you think of the film once you've seen it.

Divers and Sundry said...

Thanks for the pointer to this film. Sounds fascinating :)

It took me a while to figure out where that music was coming from, with several open tabs in each of 2 browsers. :( I'd rather start my own music rather than have it autoplay on random websites.

Grand Old Movies said...

Thanks for a terrific post on what seems like a fascinating film. It sounds VERY Losey-like in its psychological games-playing, like a precursor to such 60s Losey films as 'The Servant' (which also starred Bogarde). The wife's part sounds like a terrific role for Alexis Smith. Knox's character of the Doc, though, is a puzzle - he seems to be implicated somehow in his wife's death by his coldness to her but, at least in your description, he never acknowledges what he might have done to bring it about - and why such coldness? he's her husband, for cryin' out loud, not her shrink!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks so much. It is a very interesting film, and I think the Knox character is such a puzzle because Losey never gives us a clear indication of to what extent he is responsible for his wife's turmoil. It's as if the director is leaving it up to us. Hard to say, but fascinating.

Yvette said...

Okay, I saw the film as you recommended, Jacqueline. So now we can dish.

I'm not a good audience for this sort of story. I found it melodramatic and overwrought, especially nearing the end - what with everyone (except the doc) flinging themselves about - lots of gnashing of teeth. I found it hard to accept Dirk Bogarde in the part - don't know why. Then I got to thinking that he and the doc were, perhaps, a better pair than he and the wife.

There's something about these 50's black and white dramas coming out of England that I'm not crazy about. It was all so damn grim and bleak. I've never been one for grim or bleak.

I do love the 50's comedies set in Britain though. They cemented my love of all things Brit. But those 'contemporary' dramas made me uneasy. Perhaps because they upset my vision of a peaceful British land made up of nice little villages and dotty old ladies.

Hey, I'm entitled to my own fantasies. :)

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Yvette, I'm so glad you've had a little visit to the projection room. Your assessment of the 1950s British dramas being grim and bleak I think is pretty spot on. What I think it interesting is the schizophrenic difference between dramas and comedies of the 1950s --whether they be British or Hollywood - and films before that. The dramas are all terribly bleak, with little inspsiration. The comedies are usually frothy and even shallow.

Compare that with the 1930s and 1940s films. You have dramas that are not so bleak and even inspirational (yet we have a Depression and a war to deal with), and many or not most of the comedies are witty, earthy, and socially-relevant.

I'm not saying I like films of the 1950s less; I don't. I like them for what they are. But I do see a difference. There is a psychological break, and a brittleness to the post-war era.

As for Bogarde being a better match for Knox, I would say it's because Bogarde on some deep emotional level needs him, and Knox needs to be needed. I suspect there had been a time in their early relationship with Alexis that she needed him and perhaps that's what drew them together. But then she became the self-sufficient stone statue he made her, and he lost interest. He doesn't seem to display any real interest in her again until she cracks up.

I'm sure there's a peaceful village with some nice doty old ladies in the next county. Don't worry.

Caftan Woman said...

It sounds like an emotionally draining movie, but fascinating.

Interesting thoughts on set design. There are some movies seen once years ago where plot and performances are lot, but the sets remain strong in my memory.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Hi, CW. Hope you're feeling better these days.

Emotionally draining perhaps, but certainly thought-provoking. You can't just sit back and enjoy it. The director puts you to work puzzling it out.

I know what you mean about certain sets that are so important to the story and stay with you.

One of the scenes (though not necessarily sets) of this movie with which I was particularly taken was when Alexs and Bogarde are passing a quiet evening of conversation in the living room, she perfectly relaxed on the couch and he fidgeting about, constantly switching positions, a satelite to her Earth.

I wish I could first, get the time to spend an evening quietly conversing, and second, get somebody to sit there with me and just have a nice long, leisurely, but deep, discussion. I don't even need the brandy, but it would be a nice addition. The cigarettes are out, though.

So, what is meant to be a taut set-up intro scene in the movie is to me earthly bliss.

Page said...

Jacqueline,
I sat her for a bit listening to the beautiful song Time After Time and forgot why I was here!

I haven't seen this film but it does sound interesting with a lot of twist and turns.
I just saw The Two Mrs. Carroll's with Alex Smith and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bogart was such a surprise as a psychotic killer.

I must confess that I haven't seen many of Dirk Bogarde's films so this one sounds like a good place to start.

I certainly don't mind your long posts as everything is always so beautifully written with your interesting view of each film.
Your time and work into each post is appreciated.
Have a great weekend!
Page

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thank you so much, Page. "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" was certainly a different pair of roles for both Bogart and Stanwyck. I think Alexis Smith, in what limited screen time she had, quite superbly took the attention from them. Not an easy thing to do with actors of their calibre.

Margaret Whiting's version of "Time After Time" is nice.

I'm glad you don't mind the long posts. A reader really needs to have the time and be in the mood for them, though. I can see where a reader might take a glance and then think "heck with this" and move on.

Thanks for sticking it out.

Colin said...

That's one long and exhaustive analysis of the movie.
I generally enjoyed the film but I do feel Bogarde was miscast in it.

There is an official release of the movie available on a good quality DVD in the UK from Optimum.

I reviewed this one myself some time ago on my own site - http://filmjournal.net/livius/category/directors/joseph-losey/ - check it out if you're in the mood some time.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Welcome, Colin, and thanks for the link to your own post on "The Sleeping Tiger", which I enjoyed very much. I urge our readers to pop on over and have a look.

My post is indeed long and exhaustive, and I admire the courage it took for you to wade through it. I'm thinking of selling T-shirts that read "I Survived Another Long Post on Another Old Movie Blog".

Or maybe I should just change the title of the blog to Another Long Post.

Your point about Bogarde being miscast is a viewpoint shared by many, but I'm ambivalent about it. On the one hand, I agree he doesn't have that thuggish Marlon Brando sex appeal that we might read into a street criminal able to seduce a doctor's wife. However, would that sort of obvious overt male initially attract a straight-laced woman like Alexis' character? Maybe yes, but maybe not. I wonder who else would have done for the role? Suggestions?

What I look for in a movie is cohesiveness and a logical arc to the plot -- not necessarily "realistic". I can accept Bogarde being a criminal invited to a psychiatrist's home for a six-month experiment in the same way I can accept Harry Potter is a wizard. It's in the script, and it's all make believe.

But the script needs to have a logical progression, and the acting must be honest and genuine. I don't worry too much about realism. It's only a movie.

I wish I could see the better quality DVD sometime. I'll keep my eyes open for that.

Colin said...

Hey, thanks for the recommendation - very kind.

First up, I agree that as long as a movie follows its own logic in terms of plot development then there's not really any cause for complaint. Knox's decision to take Bogarde into his home as a case study might not be my choice of path to follow, but it's not unreasonable within the framework of the script.

As for an alternative to Bogarde, that's a tough one. The movie was made at what might be termed an awkward period in the British film industry. Had it been made a few years earlier someone like John McCallum, or even James Mason (he could play down and dirty when the occasion called for it) might have been possible. Five or six years later would have seen the likes of Sean Connery or Oliver Reed in the running. It's not that Bogarde is bad exactly, more that he doesn't have the necessary menace to convince as a tough hood from the streets.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Wow, those suggestions are great. I'm particularly taken with the idea of Oliver Reed. That might have been really something.

Your point about Bogarde lacking in menace is well taken. But I did like the element of his cleverness, which I thought he carried well. We have that scene where we follow him step by step as he executes a robbery. Very clever. He's not just mugging little old ladies at the shops. And the way he manipulates Alexis Smith is not just through sexual charisma, but through mind games. He is less a thug and more a mastermind. Which, I suppose, is why it takes someone like Alexander Knox, far more manipulative and calculating, to bring him under control.

Thanks so much for continuing this interesting discussion.

Divers and Sundry said...

"I'm thinking of selling T-shirts that read "I Survived Another Long Post on Another Old Movie Blog"."

lol ok, i had to brave the autostart music just to say how much i appreciate your thorough take. variety is the spice of life, and i enjoy short posts, too, but i do appreciate it when people like you are willing to make the effort to examine a film at length.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks very much. I could always make T-shirts that say "I Braved the Auto Start Music."

Rick29 said...

Like others here, I haven't seen this film, but Losey is always interesting and the cast is most intriguing. This ranks among my favorite of your reviews, by the way. Inspired by your coffee question" passage, I answered the coffe question with a question to my wife this morning...and I could swear she slapped me with her eyes!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thank you so much, Rick. Your coffee interrogation made me laugh. "I could swear she slapped me with her eyes!" - I love that.

ClassicBecky said...

Forgive me for not reading your whole article, Jacqueline -- I appreciate your spoiler warning. Just from the beginning of your article, I want to see the movie. The cast is great, and the plot sounds intriguing. I am going to try to see this one myself and find out where it leads. You don't know how much I wanted to peek at your synopsis, but I found strength to pass it over! Thanks for the recommendation! (I'm a big Dirk Bogarde fan!)

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Becky, you are absolved from reading the whole thing. I hope you like the movie, and I'd love to know what you think.