Rising diplomat Clay Anderson (John Forsythe) has married poor shop girl Holly (Lana Turner). They’re socially mismatched but they’re madly in love and against the odds the marriage seems quite successful and they have a son. Clay’s mother Estelle (Constance Bennett) doesn’t really approve of the marriage but she has little choice other than to accept it.
The trouble starts as Clay’s career blossoms and he has to spend an enormous amount of time away from home. Holly starts to see way too much of charming but notorious playboy Phil Benton (Ricardo Montalban in full-on Latin Lover mode). Then an accident occurs which gives Estelle the chance to get rid of Holly. Holly is presented with a stark choice - she can risk a scandal and possibly worse or she can disappear. So she chooses the option of disappearing from Clay’s life.
Christian wants to marry her but of course she can’t and she lives and her life goes steadily downhill. She ends up in Mexico, an alcoholic and (it is at least implied) a whore. She hooks up with grifter Dan Sullivan (Burgess Meredith) and amazingly things get even worse for her. Dan has a plan and she cannot permit him to carry it out. The plan will bring her into contact with a young lawyer (played by Keir Dullea), with mometous consequences.
The other key cast members all know what is required of them as well. Their performances might not be good by conventional standards but they’re just right for this film.
This is pure melodrama and it’s very much what used to be described as a woman’s picture. You can criticise it for being sentimental and for being campy and for being overwrought but it’s supposed to be all those things. It’s idle to criticise a movie than in fact achieves everything it sets out to achieve. Of course it is perfectly valid to dislike it because it’s simply not your cup of tea.
Portrait in Black) from Universal. The anamorphic transfer is very good. The only extra is the trailer.
If you’re contemplating seeing this movie there are three questions you need to ask yourself. Do you enjoy totally excessive melodramas? Do you like the Ross Hunter style? Do you like Lana Turner? If (like me) you answered yes to these questions then I recommend this film although it has to be said that there are better Ross Hunter melodramas out there.