Adapted from the prize-winning Broadway play that featured two people and a four-poster bed, in which the couple enacts their marriage, from 1897, until he dies some time after she has died ... Read allAdapted from the prize-winning Broadway play that featured two people and a four-poster bed, in which the couple enacts their marriage, from 1897, until he dies some time after she has died from cancer. It is a love that endured wars, another woman and the death of their favorite... Read allAdapted from the prize-winning Broadway play that featured two people and a four-poster bed, in which the couple enacts their marriage, from 1897, until he dies some time after she has died from cancer. It is a love that endured wars, another woman and the death of their favorite son. The episodes are bridged and linked by cartoon sequences done by UPA (United Product... Read all
A glamorous acting duo find their forte in stage-to-screen tour de force
The Four Poster(1952)is a warm,witty,and wise play chronicling a marriage, from "I do" to "til death do us part", from the candlelit late-Victorian years through the late nineteen-thirties. The Stanley Kramer-produced movie version of the Jan de Hartog stage success utilizes the gifted, Academy-award winning cinematographer Hal Mohr (A Midsummer Night's Dream, WarnerBros. 1935) to create a frequently non-static fluidity to the mies-en-scene (the overall "look") of the necessarily stage-bound piece (the closeups are luminous). The scintillating score by the virtuoso Dimitri Tiomkin perfectly captures the changes of the characters' moods and attitudes as each of them grow and evolve - both as individuals and as a couple - through each succeeding decade of their life together. The music also helps work against staginess, literally sweeping up and propelling forward the film's pace, briskly and jubilantly. In fact, Tiomkin's screen credit "Music Composed and Directed by Dimitri Tiomkin" is entirely appropriate, for he is as much to be credited with producing a movie that moves as are producer Kramer and director Irving Reis (best-remembered film The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer starring Cary Grant). An additional innovation was the use of the famed U.P.A. cartoon studio's (Gerald McBoing-Boing their signature character) animation sequences between acts to delineate the couple's lives outside the confines of their bedroom as time moves on. The results are delightful and often poignant. Lastly, and best of all, are the shining brilliance of the performances of (at the time) real-life married couple Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer. They had been brought to Hollywood together after their British film success The Rake's Progress (U.S.A. title The Notorious Gentleman), with Mr. Harrison signed by Twentieth Century-Fox and Miss Palmer by Warner Bros. After each had enjoyed a rising success at their respective studios - Harrison especially in movies such as Anna and the King of Siam and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - everything came to a screeching halt in 1948 after the suicide note written by actress Carole Landis implicating Harrison in an affair. Miss Palmer's decision to stand by her husband had them both deemed persona non grata and returned to England for work in the theatre and one oddly-autobiographical movie about marital infidelity, The Long Dark Hall in 1951. Stanley Kramer's desire to cast them in The Four Poster brought them back to Hollywood the following year, at last for a vehicle tailor-made and perfectly suited to each actor's respective gifts. Harrison is at his peak here: dashing and debonair, temperamental, sometimes foolish and childish, others compassionate and knowing. Palmer had never before and would never again be given a role in a Hollywood film that so completely utilized her versatility and enormous strengths. As the wife she is girlish and sophisticated, vibrant and ebullient, supportive yet never docile, fiery and earthy and warm and ever-hopeful for life's blessings. Miss Palmer's radiant beauty is seen to best advantage here in a performance that is quite simply sublime, and for which she was awarded the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival for the year 1953 (Academy Award consideration should also have been hers but shamefully was not). One can sense in these two superb performances a lot of catharsis: the trials of their exile and the tensions of their personal relationship being diverted and channeled into those of their characters' situations. The Four Poster was acclaimed critically but sadly was a box-office failure, perhaps its sophisticated, innovative presentation a little ahead of its time. Yet happily for viewers today the movie is at the very least a filmed record of two glowing performances by two great stars, whose middling success overall as an acting couple would be eclipsed by later individual stage and screen successes. And this film can be seen as a reminder of what dynamic star charisma and sheer acting presence used to be.
- Jun 14, 2008
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