25 August 2003 | halmp-1
Bernie Schwartz, as Cory, finds out the Lady is a Tramp
Too bad Mister Cory isn't given a first name; he deserved one...especially when expertly portrayed by Mr. Tony Curtis.
About the time this film was done, in 1957, Curtis was gaining rapid momentum in what would become a memorable career. "Mister Cory" was bookcased by excellent mid/latter Fifties' Curtis films such as "Trapeeze", "The Vikings", "The Defiant Ones", "The Sweet Smell of Success", "Kings Go Forth" and "Operation Petticoat." Each of these Curtis efforts received critical acclaim...particularly "The Defiant Ones," for which he won an Oscar nomination, and "Sweet Smell of Success", for which he should have been nominated.
"Mister Cory" rarely is listed among Curtis' major early efforts. It should be. It is a real "sleeper." The actor, and those around him here, lift the film multiple steps above its melodramatic flavor, into the realm of something quite riveting.
Curtis was 32 when "Mister Cory" was done, but his boyish good-looks and trim physique make him quite believeable as the story's young man just out of the Navy, seeking his future. However, if anyone believes Curtis became successful on the screen just for those elements need only to watch performances as this to learn otherwise.
Cory is a complex character study, with volatile undercurrents beneath his attractive, agreeable surface. Curtis expertly handles the various nuances of the role. He makes the viewer believe he IS the tough kid just out of Chicago, seeking to escape his seamy roots. First, in the verdant Wisconsin resort locale, and later as a manager/host for a glittering Lake Shore Drive gambling house catering to the wealthy and snobbish.
In reality, Curtis was a tough kid seeking to escape his Bronx roots. He certainly could identify with Cory. But merely identifying with a character isn't sufficient for a believeable screen performance. Curtis demonstrates that he brought much more to the table than attractiveness and a pleasing personality. "Mister Cory" is only one such example.
Joining Curtis in "Mister Cory" are a wealth of outstanding supporting people. Twenty-two year old Kathryn Grant, less an a year from marrying Bing Crosby, is the saucy, outdoorsy, girl-next-door Jen Vollard who makes little doubt of her interest in Cory. In the role, Grant is adorable. She favored marriage over a screen career, a choice unfortunate for viewers.
Martha Hyer likewise is effective as the lacquered, polished Abigail Vollard, Jen's sister. Like most males who come into contact with her, Cory is taken. Unlike others, he is not overwhelmed. Ultimately, he learns that her smooth veneer merely whitewashes over unattractive beneath-the-surface elements.
Veteran character actor Charles Bickford is excellent as the stolid Jeremiah Caldwell, Cory's friend/mentor. Russ Morgan also turned in a fine performance as Ruby Matrobe, the suggestively shady force behind the gambling house.
But, with Curtis and Grant, the film is stolen by British stage/screen veteran Henry Daniell.
As Mr. Earnshaw, Daniell initially is boss to Cory's busboy at the resort. Later, he is recruited by Cory to tend to customers' needs at Matrobe's establishment. It is Earnshaw's "air of snobbery" that is his most marketable quality to Cory. Daniell carries off the stuffy, Mr. Manners role with enjoyable aplomb. With an O Henry-like twist near the film's conclusion, Cory learns that stiff, protocol-spouting Earnshaw once was arrested...for bigamy.
The film's most thankless role is that of Abigail's long-time suiter, Alex Wyncott. He has spent much of his life eagerly, if a bit wearily, fending-off numerous would be-rivals for her. William Reynolds handles the role well, and deserves credit for undertaking it. Not only is Wyncott portrayed to be a rich man's apparently inept son, he verbally is accosted by Cory in witheringly demeaning fashion. Only near the the 92-minute film's conclusion is Wyncott finally allowed to demonstrate backbone: he shoots Cory in the arm. Curtis responds: "...I didn't think he had the guts."
Upon viewing "Mister Cory," those unfamiliar with the film might likewise reply, "Where has this been all this time?"