Beloved Infidel (Blu-ray Review)7 Jan, 2013 By: Mike Clark
Available via www.ScreenArchives.com
Stars Gregory Peck, Deborah Kerr, Eddie Albert.
Back when I was an AFI film programmer for eight deliriously fruitful years, I toyed with mounting a series on “The Writer’s Angst” until it dawned on me that a) this has always been an inherently tough concept for filmmakers to visualize; and b) there probably wouldn’t be that many variations on, say, The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (1942, Twentieth Century-Fox) or this slickly mounted flop that folks would care to see.
Adapted from a Sheila Graham bestseller of the day that every adult female relative of mine seemed to own in paperback, Infidel relates how the eventual Hollywood gossip columnist (Deborah Kerr) got mentored by the older F. Scott Fitzgerald (Gregory Peck) during the writer’s alcoholic waning days when — as we see in one of this soaper’s better scenes — even The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night were out of print. Frequent Peck collaborator Henry King was among the most indifferent of all major directors, but his credits do include my two favorite Peck films: Twelve O’Clock High and The Gunfighter.
In this case, he obviously couldn’t gear the story to Peck’s great screen strength, which was projecting authority that sometimes extended all the way to repressed (and, occasionally, even unrepressed) rage. As a Graham more refined than the real one likely was, Kerr is more on point and looking mighty regal on the beach (watch that redhead’s skin tones, Deb).
Given his haircut here and also from the humorous short subjects we see him filming on a soundstage, I assume that Eddie Albert’s fictitious “Bob Carter” character is (in the kind of subterfuge that always sinks old Hollywood biopics) supposed to be humorist Robert Benchley.
What makes the movie watchable (kind of) is the fact that we are, after all, witnessing a screen drama about the great FSF — and also, of course, the expected pro job Twilight Time gives to the Blu-ray (including the alternate-channel isolation of Franz Waxman’s score).
In any event, the movie isn’t any worse than what the trailer for the forthcoming Baz Luhrmann Gatsby screen makeover portends: a Roaring Twenties portrait for today’s slow-on-the-uptake demographic that wouldn’t know Jack Dempsey from Patrick.