[Note: The following review is of a non-Peary title; click here to read more.]
“I’m the looking glass you created to see yourself in!”
Raised for a life in show business by her overbearing mother (Jo Van Fleet), Lillian Roth (Susan Hayward) finds fleeting fame in Hollywood but descends into alcoholism while suffering through a string of unhappy marriages.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
- Downward Spiral
- Richard Conte Films
- Susan Hayward Films
Based on Lillian Roth‘s memoir of her descent into life-threatening alcoholism (and eventual recovery through AA), this musical biopic afforded Susan Hayward yet another opportunity to portray an aspiring female artist struggling against a seemingly insurmountable host of personal demons. According to TCM’s article, Hayward lobbied strongly for the part, citing her previous work in both Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947) and With a Song in My Heart (1952) as evidence that she was well prepared to tackle such a role. She succeeded in her entreaty, ultimately earning the fourth of five Oscar nominations for her work here, with Peary himself nominating her in his Alternate Oscars as one of the Best Actresses of the Year (thus prompting me to check this film out as a potential Missing Title). However, as with Annie Get Your Gun (1950), I’m afraid a strong lead performance isn’t enough to make the film itself must-see.
While I don’t quite agree with critic Jonathan Rosenbaum that it’s “truly dreadful”, the film — directed by Daniel Mann — never really redeems itself as anything other than a standard episodic biopic, marching steadily along a predictably chronological pathway. In addition, having recently read Roth’s memoir, I couldn’t help noticing how (inevitably) white-washed this Hollywoodized adaptation ultimately is; for instance, while Richard Conte is suitably malicious as the most abusive of her many husbands, the real-life loser he represents was at least 10 times worse. With that said, the movie may remain of minor interest to film fanatics due to Roth’s erstwhile status as a fleeting starlet (she’s probably best remembered for her memorable supporting work in Love Parade and Animal Crackers). However, for those truly interested in her sordid life history, you’re better off simply reading her much-harder-hitting memoir instead.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Susan Hayward as Lillian Roth
No, but it’s worth a look simply for Hayward’s performance.