28 July 2016 | robert-temple-1
A poignant melodrama about the age gap between two lovers
This is an unusual and moving melodrama. (The title is the address of the house where the Chapin family live.) Gary Cooper plays Joe Chapin, and the film opens with his funeral but soon becomes a flashback. Cooper is a man who has just turned fifty, who falls in love with his daughter's best friend Kate, who is in her twenties. She returns his love and they wish to get married. Kate is played by the excellent actress Suzy Parker, who was 25 at the time the film was made and already had a career behind her as the most successful and highest paid model in America. She was one cool dudette. She was also Coco Chanel's favourite model. She plays the role of Kate with great sensitivity and distinction. The film is based on a novel by John O'Hara (1905-1970). Two years later, an excellent film based on another of his novels was made, FROM THE TERRACE (1960, see my review). Probably the most famous screen adaptation of one of his novels was BUTTERFIELD 8 (1960), starring Elizabeth Taylor. ('Butterfield 8' was the first part of a Manhattan telephone number before the days of wholly numerical dialling, Butterfield being the name of a former New York telephone exchange.) This film is set in the fictitious town of Gibbsville, in the state of Pennsylvania, which was the setting of most of O'Hara's sagas. Between 1976 and 1977, a 13 episode series appeared on American television called GIBBSVILLE, based on short stories which O'Hara also set there, but which are separate from this tale. (That series is not and apparently never has been on DVD.) O'Hara was a best-selling author at this period, of immense popularity in America. His fiction spoke of the many concealed conflicts of American life and society in the 1950s, with sons struggling against fathers, unmarred pregnancies, tyrannical mothers and wives, forbidden love, and, above all, the rigid social stratifications caused by money. The film was scripted and directed by Philip Dunne. It is a pity that he was but a middling talent, because this film had all the ingredients of a classic, but his direction was stolid rather than inspired. Despite the best efforts of the cast, therefore, this film fails to reach the top echelon. The story is torrid, and Gary Cooper plays a wealthy man who is continually cheated of his prospects for political advancement because he will not continue to go along with corruption. (The film starts with him giving $20,000 in cash to a political operator in hopes of getting the nomination for Lieutenant Governor of his state, but he tires of this sort of thing and turns against it.) Cooper is married to a ruthless social-climber and harridan, brilliantly played by Geraldine Fitzgerald with all the poison of a viper. Their daughter Ann is played sensitively by Diane Varsi, whose only previous appearance on screen had been the year before in PEYTON PLACE (1957). She was very talented but did not make many films, and died young at 54. The main focus of the story is not at all evident in the beginning, and it is only after the daughter leaves home to live in New York that Gary Cooper goes up to see her as a surprise, she is out, and he meets her roommate for the first time. That's when the romance gets going. Cooper has never been in love before, and the torment of a love that can never be revealed is agony for both him and Suzy Parker. It is all very moving and done with great delicacy and sincerity. The film is very worthwhile and for those who like good sound melodramas, it will not be disappointing.