Saturday, 16 July 2011

Ray Milland #4

Inevitably, it’s pretty hard to reduce Ray Milland’s best movies to a mere ten. After all, Martin Scorsese had to name his eleven best horror movies – he couldn’t settle on ten. And I wouldn’t agree with some of his choices, but that’s another post.

Here are five more Milland movies worthy of note.

Skylark (Mark Sandrich, 1941): Claudette Colbert divorces her business-absorbed husband (Milland) and almost marries slick lawyer Brian Aherne. A moment of crisis forces her to re-evaluate and she returns to her husband. All three leads are particularly good in this sophisticated romantic comedy based on Samuel Raphaelson’s play which had been a hit on Broadway a couple of years earlier. This was Colbert and Milland’s second outing as a romantic couple; they had appeared together the previous year in Mitchell Leisen’s Arise My Love, a romantic comedy with an interventionist message and allegedly Colbert’s favourite film.

Beau Geste (William Wellman. 1939): the best-known adaptation of P. C. Wren’s adventure story is virtually a scene for scene remake of Herbert Brenon’s 1926 version. Milland stars with Gary Cooper and Robert Preston as the Geste brothers who, after Beau (Cooper) and Digby (Preston) confess to stealing a jewel their father was going to sell to raise money, join the Foreign Legion where they have to fight off Tuareg tribesmen and deal with the sadistic attentions of their commanding officer, who suspects them of having the jewel with them. At the end, only John Geste (Milland) is alive and a letter Beau had sent to their stepmother reveals that he had stolen the jewel to protect her because he knew it was fake; she had sold the original earlier and he feared she would be punished by her husband.

The River’s Edge (Allan Dwan, 1957): a contemporary Western-noir in which a couple’s (Anthony Quinn and Debra Paget) struggle to survive on a small ranch in New Mexico is violently interrupted by the arrival of the woman’s murderous ex-boyfriend, Nardo Denning (Milland), who forces them to accompany him across the Mexican border with a suitcase packed with stolen money. The situation worsens when the woman develops a fever and her husband’s leg is trapped by a boulder, leaving them at Denning’s mercy. Sounds like a Coen Brothers movie!

So Evil My Love (Lewis Allen, 1948): Victorian London-set psychological thriller, filmed in noir style by the director of The Uninvited. Olivia Harwood (Ann Todd) is infatuated with art thief and forger Mark Bellis (Milland) and allows herself to be manipulated into blackmailing an old friend, Susan, and her wealthy husband, Henry (who, in turn, is plotting to have his wife committed to a sanatorium because she cannot produce the heir he wants), not realising Bellis is romancing another woman, Kitty (Moira Lister), behind her back. The plan goes awry thanks to the work of a private detective (Leo G. Carroll) and Olivia hits Henry when she confronts her with evidence of Mark’s past crimes (which include murder). He collapses with a heart attack and she becomes more complicit when she convinces Susan to give him some medicine which she has laced with poison. Bellis wants to take Olivia to start a new life in America, but the private detective sends Kitty to see her and she sees a locket around the latter’s neck that she had given to him. When she confronts him, he admits he had been using her but tells her he is now genuinely in love, but she stabs him and heads for the police station.

Alias Nick Beal (John Farrow, 1949): a reworking of the Faust story with Milland in outstanding form as Nick Beal, a smartly-attired habitué of the China Coast wharfside café, who summons Judge Foster (Thomas Mitchell) when the latter exclaims that he would sell his soul to the devil if he could put a city crime boss, Hansen, behind bars. Beal provides the evidence in the form of Hansen’s account books and Foster is nominated for governor, accepting $25,000 for his campaign from his mysterious benefactor. He begins to change from an incorruptible judge into a vain, selfish politician and is persuaded by Beal to enter into a pact with a criminal to get elected. His old allies and even his wife desert him; the only person who stands by him is his old friend Reverend Garfield (George MacReady), who explains his suspicions that Beal is actually the devil! Foster tries to get out of the pact, but Beal implicates him in the murder of Hansen’s book-keeper. When he wins the election but immediately resigns and hold a press conference to admit to fraud. Although he has expiated his sins, Beal still wants his soul and drives him the wharf, where he is confronted by Reverend Garfield…


  1. Un buen homenage a Ray Milland. Me gusta leer esto resuménes por lo que aprendo... Aunque he tenido que recurrir al traductos :D me encanta aprender :)
    Un besito y que tengas un bonito Finde :)

  2. hey, thanks for the follow! had a look at your blog - really nice, love the music too - will be back :)