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Where Love Has Gone (DVD Review)

27 Sep, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Street 9/28/10
$24.95 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Susan Hayward, Mike Connors, Joey Heatherton, Jane Greer, George Macready, DeForest Kelley, Bette Davis.

Two veteran actresses, both known for their off-screen toughness, battle it out as wealthy mother and daughter. The source material is a Harold Robbins bestseller inspired by, notwithstanding denials to the contrary, one of the most famous murder cases of the preceding decade. The aforementioned daughter and her own 15-year-old femme offspring share a lover (the yarn’s murder victim). There’s blackmail, adultery and heavily implied nymphomania — everything that trash-loving moviegoers would have wanted in 1964, including a title ballad sung by Jack Jones (one eventually beaten for the year’s best song Oscar by “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from Mary Poppins).

Though the story deals with a famed San Francisco sculptress (played by Susan Hayward) and not a Hollywood actress, its transparent jumping-off point is the unpremeditated 1958 stabbing death of mob bodyguard/enforcer Johnny Stompanato by Lana Turner’s teen daughter amid a domestic argument. Joey Heatherton — then 19 in real life and looking it — plays this version’s mid-teen assailant (“justifiable homicide” rules the court), who in the opening scene dispatches the lover who’d been bedding every female in the family aide from grandmother Bette Davis (let us hope).

I know why I bothered with this potboiler as a teenager in 1964 (the raunchier novel held promise for a Joey Heatherton movie), but why now? Well, Davis has a grand old time playing a grande dame who ruins daughter Hayward’s life — pulling strings, for starters, to make certain that her war hero son-in-law (Mike Connors, three years before TV’s Mannix) can’t find work without her help, thereby turning him into an alcoholic. Davis even bankrolls an apartment for the couple that’s posh, spacious and geographically beyond belief before adding the perfect kicker: a large oil painting of herself that’s already on the wall when the newlyweds first see the place. How many bets do you want to take that someone will shred it before the picture ends?

Despite its sleazy material, the execution is early-1960s glossy to the extreme; even the cheap bar whose resident hooker has slash scars on her wrist looks as if it might conceivably have clean restrooms. On the other hand, you can see why Davis might have been attracted to her role, despite its unsavory trappings. She not only gets to be domineering but also outfitted in wardrobes with a much higher price tag than the freak show attire she wore in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.

As for Hayward, she really doesn’t get to wear the lavish array you might expect in this kind of presumed clotheshorse opera; in one unintentionally funny scene, Connors arrives home to see her in goggles as sparks fly off the brandishing welding tools in her hand. Even so, she’s definitely living large. One suspects that not too many hours go by without the sheets being changed on her spacious bed – though the character is also the type who, upon awakening, reaches for that first cigarette. Hayward got crustier on screen as the years went by.

Originally a November theatrical release, Love reunited the literary source (Robbins), producer (Joseph E. Levine), screenwriter (John Michael Hayes) and director (Edward Dmytryk) from the previous April’s The Carpetbaggers, which had been one of the year’s biggest box office hits despite a V-8 warehouse’s worth of vegetables tossed its way by critics. This almost immediate follow-up isn’t nearly as much fun — in general, the fire vanished from the belly of Dmytryk’s direction once he came back from the early 1950s’ political Blacklist — but it does offer some amusements around the edges.

One is seeing onetime noir femme fatale Jane Greer — the original poster I own from Out of the Past has her in a negligee brandishing a gun — play a restrained, almost prim, social worker. Another is seeing a pre-“Star Trek” DeForest Kelley (with pipe) playing a slightly shady art dealer. Another is when Heatherton, on her way to a psychiatric facility, gives daddy back a present from him she’s kept: his Congressional Medal of Honor. Most of all, there’s the movie’s twisted old-school morality. In one scene father Connors is dumbstruck by daughter Joey’s recently discovered love letters to the man she killed, noting that he’d even be shocked if they were the product of a woman in her 30s. (Really? Her 30s?) Significantly less emphasized is the fact that the girl is legally underage — and by a long shot.

Though super-slick, Love wasn’t shot in the expected Panavision but the less expensive Techniscope  — a process that was normally restricted to second-banana productions or, in a few cases, movies that turned out to be better than anyone initially predicted (Alfie, Once Upon a Time in the West, Don Siegel’s Madigan). One offshoot of the process was a grainy look arguably appropriate to, say, a Sergio Leone Western but not to this kind of lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-sexually insatiable potboiler. But to my surprise, the DVD looks fairly pristine compared to some of Olive Films’ other recent color releases of Paramount catalog titles. This will be an interesting quality-control story to follow because lots more Paramounts in the works, including several I eagerly await.

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