Sunday, September 23, 2012

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- The Girl With The Bette Davis Eyes, Part Two- “Deception”- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the melodramatic noir Deception.

DVD Review

Deception, starring Bette Davis, Claude Raines, Paul Henreid, Warner Brothers 1946

Hey, I like a soft touch egg head thriller as well as the next guy but this one, this “high brow” thing, Deception, left me cold, cold as old Claude Rains at the end. It was not that Bette Davis played, well, Bette Davis with those Bette Davis eyes (and other iconic moves) just a little too dramatically over the top as a head over heels in love budding pianist mooning over a lost love cellist in post-war Mayfair swells New York (World War II for those keeping score on the which war issue). It was not that Paul Henreid, last seen by this writer as the heroic resistance leader Victor Laszlo trying to get some damned letters of transit out of hole-in-the- wall Casablanca in the film of the same name in order to beat the Nazis in Europe, as that smitten cellist who had lost a step or two with his nerves all frayed after being cooped up in that aforementioned Nazi-occupied Europe. And it certainly was not Claude Rains, also last seen by this reviewer in that same film walking in some fogged-in hole- in- the- wall Casablanca airfield arm and arm with Humphrey Bogart after helping old Victor Laszlo break out to lead Europe back to civilization, as a world famous composer with a perchant for New Yorker magazine-induced high camp elite chatter, or what passed for it in those days. No, it was not the performances of these fines actors per se but the flow of the plot line that as it slowly and melodramatically unfolded made me hope, hope to high heaven, that someone, and that someone being Claude Rains, would end up as cold as I felt about half way through this one.

  Let me explain and see if you agree. Christine (played by Bette Davis), an aspiring pianist, who was being, well, let me put this gently, being “kept” by the eminent composer Hollenius (played by Rains) who lavished her with gifts and other expensive odds and ends for her favors. Nothing usual there and as we are all adults we know, or should know, this stuff happens all the time to Mayfair swells and mean street thugs. What upsets this nice arrangement is that an old beau, Karel (played by Henreid), a struggling but up and coming cellist in pre-war Europe whom was presumed by Christine to be dead shows up in New York right after the war trying to make a new start. Christine finds out, and wants to start up that old flame thing they had when they were young and struggling in that lost pre-war European night. All this though without telling him anything but lies about her sugar daddy Hollenius. Not a good idea.

The rest of the film centers on the tension between this trio as Karel runs to fits of confusion and jealousy over Christine’s relationship with Hollenius. Hollenius is furious, and profusely and verbally at wits end, over Christine’s tossing him, a great world renown composer, over for some two bit café musician. A subplot has Hollenius toying with the lovebirds by offering Karel a cello work compose by him that can either make or break him in the high brow music world. And Christine, well, Christine is trying to keep her past a secret from Karel at any price. That is the deception and it is played out until the merciful end when she off-handedly shot old Hollenius when he, very ungentlemanly-like, threatened, or maybe threatened, to expose the whole show. Of course this whole star-crossed lovers scene could have been averted if Christine had just come clean but no she had to play with fire, and play with it until the end. See what I mean though about not getting very weepy over this melodrama.

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