24 February 2003 | dbdumonteil
the missing link between Stahl and Sirk.
Melodrama had come a long way between the thirties austere black and white Stahl tear-jerkers to the fifties flaming Sirk extravaganzas ,which were often remakes of the first director's works ( "when tomorrow comes" "imitation of life" "magnificent obsession")
At the beginning of the fifties ,Wyler -who had already approached melodrama ("Mrs Minniver","little foxes" and even elements of his admirable "best years of our lives) opted for full bore weepie,the "enough is enough" genre and thus anticipated on the great maudlin movies of the fifties which was another golden era for the style,not only Douglas Sirk but also Minelli,Cukor,Dmytryk ,King... Jennifer Jones ,the romantic actress par excellence ,is the bridge between the two eras:she has nothing to do with Irene Dunne or Margaret Sullavan because she's primarily an intuitive:her face is constantly longing for the love which ceaselessly eludes her :no actress succeeded as she did as far romantic passion is concerned ("duel in the sun" "madame Bovary" "Ruby Gentry" are good examples).
And yet,despite the title,the plot focuses on Olivier's character.the great thespian is very moving,going from riches to rag with equal command.The plot encompasses everything that makes a melodrama a delight for afficionados of the genre.Olivier's downfall is almost realist -and sometimes recalls Murnau's "der Letzte Mann" (1924).Wyler depicts his plight and humiliation in lavish detail .That's strange,because ,generally ,man is spared in melodramas .
The legendary depth of field you can find in any Wyler movie is used with great results in the scenes when Carrie comes for the first time in the luxury restaurant where she's invited.