18 August 2006 | bkoganbing
That Beautiful High Society
Saratoga Trunk was one of a handful of films done during the World War II years and not released to the general public until the war ended. Warner Brothers was especially big on that, another example would be the Humphrey Bogart/Barbara Stanwyck film The Two Mrs. Carrolls.
In the case of Saratoga Trunk though, it had a built in audience guaranteed because of the tremendous hit that director Sam Wood had already done at Paramount with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, For Whom The Bell Tolls. They were such a smash box office hit with the public as a romantic duo that I guess Jack Warner craved a little of what Adolph Zukor was raking in at Paramount.
The vehicle for Wood/Cooper/Bergman is the Edna Ferber novel, Saratoga Trunk and I think it proved a bit too long for the screen. If it were done today it would have been a mini-series. In fact the film should have been done as a two parter because it's really two different stories with only the most fragile connection.
The first part is Ingrid Bergman and her posse, Flora Robson and Jerry Austin arrive in New Orleans where she is laying claim to the estate of her late father. Mom was a woman of easy virtue and Dad was old New Orleans creole society. She accidentally killed him back in the day. The scandal caused dad's family to see that society shunned her even after her term in prison.
Ingrid sets out to make the family pay and they do in many ways. She also meets Texan Gary Cooper while in the Big Easy. He's also out for some payback involving some railroad barons.
Both of them make their separate ways to Saratoga, during the 1890s the playground of the rich and famous. Cooper still has his score to settle and Bergman wants to snag a wealthy husband.
It might have been far better to treat the New Orleans and the Saratoga incidents as two separate films. Instead Warner Brothers and Sam Wood tried to pack it all in one film and it's over long.
Cooper and Bergman still retain the romantic appeal from For Whom The Bells Toll. They got some real good support from dwarf actor Jerry Austin as her faithful Cupidon and Flora Robson made up as a mixed racial Haitian servant. It's blackface yes, but Robson does not play it servile, not by any means.
Other good roles here are Florence Bates as the wise society dowager in Saratoga, Curt Bois as the family lawyer for Bergman's Dad's family who she negotiates with for a payoff, John Warburton as the object of her matrimony in Saratoga and Ethel Griffies as his mother. Warburton proves to be something of an unpleasant surprise for Bergman.
Bergman has the far showier role as Cleo Dulaine, but Cooper does have his moments. There is a climatic brawl that he's involved in with two factions trying to control a railway trunkline in Saratoga.
Well that's where the title comes from. What, did you think it was Ingrid Bergman's baggage?