Four Romances from Warner Home Video
The Clock (March 2/07)
Directed by Vincente Minnelli, The Clock follows Robert Walker's Joe Allen and Judy Garland's Alice Mayberry as they meet-cute in New York City and subsequently fall in love over the next several days. There's not much more to it than that, and although one can't help but lament the overly frenetic finale, the film is generally as affable and lighthearted as its premise might have indicated. Much of the credit for the film's mild success belongs to Walker and Garland, as their charismatic work often elevates Robert Nathan and Joseph Schrank's tremendously uneven screenplay. The inclusion of several admittedly worthless subplots - including an appearance by Keenan Wynn as a loud-mouthed drunk - doesn't seem to serve any purpose other than to pad out the film's running time, while the unusually dated third act leaves the proceedings with a fairly bitter aftertaste. Still, Minnelli's breezy direction is reflected in the performances - with the end result a piece of work that is, more often than not, agreeable enough to warrant a mild recommendation.
Crossing Delancey (March 8/07)
Though the film is never quite able to entirely mask its stage origins, Crossing Delancey is generally an affable, thoroughly charming little romance that benefits substantially from Amy Irving's compelling performance. The story revolves around a successful bookseller named Isabelle (Irving) whose inability to find a husband greatly concerns her meddling grandmother (Reizl Bozyk), with the matchmaking efforts that ensue leading Isabelle straight to kindly pickle-maker Sam Posner (Peter Riegert). Director Joan Micklin Silver - working from Susan Sandler's screenplay - has infused Crossing Delancey with a gentle rhythm that ultimately suits the material quite well and it's hard not to be impressed by the degree to which she's transformed the film's locale of New York City into a character itself. There's little doubt, however, the movie belongs to Irving; the actress effortlessly steps into the shoes of a surprisingly complex character and manages to turn her into someone the viewer can't help but root for (Bozyk, trapped within the confines of a stereotypically fretful Jewish grandmother, doesn't fare quite as well). That Irving shares a real sense of chemistry with Riegert certainly doesn't hurt, although - admittedly - the film does eventually reach a point at which it seems to be spinning its wheels (ie we know that Isabelle and Sam are going to wind up together, and yet Sandler keeps throwing more and more obstacles in their way). Still, that's an awfully minor complaint for a film that is other quite engaging and genuinely romantic.
Miracle In The Rain (March 9/07)
Saddled with a premise that's almost identical to that of The Clock's, Miracle In The Rain manages to coast along on the charisma of its stars right up until the one-hour mark - at which point screenwriter Ben Hecht offers up a twist that could (and should) have marked the film's conclusion (the forty minutes that follow are about as needless as one could imagine). The film casts Jane Wyman as a mousy secretary who meets and falls in love with a visiting soldier (Van Johnson), with much of the emphasis placed on their subsequent exploits in and around New York City. It's all very frothy and lightweight, and there's little doubt that Wyman and Johnson's captivating work is what generally keeps things interesting (Johnson is particularly effective here). The inclusion of several entirely needless subplots - ie an appearance by Alan King as a loud-mouthed fellow soldier - only pads out the already-overlong running time, while the aforementioned endless third act certainly doesn't do the movie any favors (nor does the exceedingly silly conclusion). And yet, it's ultimately difficult not to be drawn into Miracle In The Rain's undeniably romantic atmosphere - a vibe maintained by Wyman's thoroughly heartbreaking performance.
A Summer Place (March 13/07)
Overlong and overwrought, A Summer Place - which has inexplicably become a minor classic in the years since its 1959 release - follows the exploits of several characters over one particularly tumultuous summer. Ken (Richard Egan), unhappily married to Helen (Constance Ford), returns to his childhood home and subsequently discovers he still has feelings for a childhood crush (Dorothy McGuire's Sylvia). Meanwhile, Ken's daughter (Sandra Dee's Molly) and Sylvia's son (Troy Donahue's Johnny) embark on a whirlwind romance - much to Helen's extreme consternation. Aside from a fantastic sequence in which Ken brutally outlines Helen's every fault and prejudice, A Summer Place is almost entirely devoid of elements designed to hold the viewer's interest; Delmer Daves' laughably melodramatic screenplay holds few surprises, and the movie consequently possesses a vibe of predictability that's impossible to overlook. That both Ken and Sylvia are married to unreasonably awful people certainly doesn't help matters, and there's little doubt that Helen's relentlessly contemptible demeanor eventually hinders one's ability to enjoy the film. The end result is a film that's just egregiously silly; were it not for Max Steiner's justifiably legendary score, it's highly unlikely that A Summer Place would be remembered quite so fondly.