29 September 2006 | blanche-2
beautifully made drama with a staggering performance by Olivier
Not for nothing is Laurence Olivier heralded as one of the greatest actors of our time, and if ever a film proved it, it's "Carrie," an adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's "Sister Carrie." Dreiser is the man who brought us "An American Tragedy," remade as "A Place in the Sun." Poor Dreiser - he must have been one miserable human being to write such stories of man's desolation.
"Carrie" is the story of a distinguished man, George Hurstwood (Olivier) who runs a large Chicago restaurant, and how his obsession with a beautiful young woman, Carrie (Jennifer Jones) destroys his social standing, his reputation, and his life.
Miserable in a loveless marriage to Julie (Miriam Hopkins), George meets Carrie while she is living with a salesman, Charlie (Eddie Albert). One thing that the film points out is that there were so very few opportunities for women in the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th. After losing her job due to injury at a shoe-making factory, Carrie drifts into friendship and then is seduced into a relationship with Charlie. She is never comfortable with the arrangement and wants to get married. Very naive and inexperienced at life, when she falls in love with George, she expects him to marry her, not realizing that he's already married. An angry, vicious Julie goes to George's boss with the tale of her husband's immorality. After a confrontation with his boss and Julie, George panics, takes money he intended to give to the restaurant owner, and runs away with Carrie. Thus, he becomes a fugitive. But his troubles are just beginning.
William Wyler skillfully directed this film, which has one of Olivier's best screen performances as George. "I want love!" he screams at his wife. "And I intend to have that before I die!" Desperate, obsessed, weak, but proud, Olivier gives a fully fleshed-out portrayal of a man at the end of his rope whose great passion - in a more devastating way - will ruin his life almost as surely as his suppression of passion would have. How he wasn't nominated for an Oscar is a true mystery; it is one of the all-time great film portrayals. He will break your heart.
As Carrie, Jennifer Jones is excellent as an unhappy young woman who, because of poverty, innocence, and George's determination, is dragged into a downward spiral. She is dazzlingly beautiful and one can see her grow from a vapid, victimized girl into a woman who hides her resentment and has a strong resolve. Jones has been criticized for being passive in this part - but it's a passive role. She's a young country girl in the big city at a time when society was totally male-oriented and most doors were closed to her. She is the cause of George's destruction, but not on purpose. George is such a weak man that the only type of person he could ever dominate would be someone like Carrie - and finally, he isn't even able to dominate her.
Hopkins was a master at playing a shrew, but more than that, she was a brilliant actress who knew the art of playing period pieces, as she demonstrated so admirably in "The Heiress." Eddie Albert is good in the familiar role of a likable salesman, but it had an added twist - this one had ulterior motives, but he was so smiley and gregarious, you almost couldn't believe it.
Well worth seeing but have a box of tissues nearby. You'll ask yourself, too, how Olivier and the film could have been overlooked at Oscar time.