20 June 2015 | blanche-2
We had faces then...and we kept them!
Billy Wilder's second-last film comes full circle from 1950's Sunset Boulevard.
Fedora begins with a news announcement of the great actress' death. Dutch Detweiler (William Holden) narrates the film, and attends Fedora's lying in state. He recalls what led up to that moment, and the story begins.
Dutch (William Holden) has a script that is perfect for the actress Fedora (Marthe Keller), a Garbo-like myth wrapped in a legend, who lives a reclusive life in Corfu.
One day, he sees her in town and reintroduces himself - they knew each other 30 years earlier. He is astounded by her unchanged beauty. She wears gloves because her doctor can't do anything about aging hands. and she asks him for a few dollars. When he asks if she received his script, she says that they hide the mail from her.
After some spying on Fedora, Dutch comes to the conclusion that she is not being well treated and is imprisoned. Desperate to see her, he tries every way he can to gain entrance to the house, and at one point actually breaks in, only to be knocked out by someone who acts as her chauffeur. When he comes to, he's in his hotel, and a week has passed. And lots has happened.
Fedora is based on the story in Tom Tryon's book, "Crowned Heads," which is three stories - the first about a Lana Turner-type, the second a combination of Clifton Webb and Ramon Navarro, and the third Fedora, actually based on Dietrich, Garbo, and a few other actresses. The first two stories were kind of sleazy. Fedora is really the best one.
I remember this did not get good reviews at the time. Billy Wilder had no end of problems with it. It did not get a full release internationally or nationally; it was not publicized; and it was so badly cut that audiences laughed in all the wrong places when it was shown initially.
It's pathetic to me that a great talent like Billy Wilder was treated so badly by modern Hollywood, but I'm not surprised.
I think this is an interesting story and if Wilder had been allowed to do what he wanted, it would have been a marvelous film. One of the things that brought it down for me was the abominable performance of Marthe Keller. This role brought an end to her brief Hollywood career.
What really bothered me was all the dubbing. Neither Knef's nor Keller's voices were used, and it's obvious. The actresses just sound dubbed with very little effort at performances. I may be overly sensitive; that dubbing sound is a big turnoff for me, but maybe not for others.
I think this plays better on television than it probably did in the theaters, and it's definitely worth seeing for Holden at least, who is Joe Gillis had he lived.
A series of unfortunate events spoiled what this film could have been, but it's still Billy Wilder, it's still William Holden, and you can't go too wrong.