Based on Sister Carrie, and a "novel" written by Theodore Dreiser meaning that's it's been made up by an idea about an actual person. This is the version that includes the 'flophouse' scene that was originally cut out from it's theatrical release. Anyways, the setting is Chicago and the time is during when people were using 'horse carriages' showcasing Carrie played by Jennifer Jones working on a low paying and miserable job where workers can be mistreated. Carrie eventually gets fired so she seeks for other means of employment, there she makes an effort to look for a former stranger she met on a train while coming to Chicago who happens to be a salesman Charles Drouet played by Eddie Albert (Roman Holiday) who left her a card. Upon Carrie seeing him, he tells her that his profession doesn't employ women and tries to manipulate her into living with him. And upon going for lunch/ dinner to meet salesman Charles at some fancy Chicago restaurant was when she falls in love with George Hurstwood played by Lawrence Olivier, an unhappy married man with 3 kids with his wife Julie played by Miriam Hopkins.
What this film could've been about are how women can be unfairly mistreated in the workforce during the early 1900's since this film does show how it was like during that time period. However, this social commentary somehow gets lost as the movie progresses between Jennifer Jones and Lawrence Olivier. The movie craves for something to say but unsucceeds in doing just that which may have been the result of director William Wyler running out of money since he's also credited as one of the producers as well.
2 out of 4
Secondly, the ending. This is definitely not a typical Hollywood movie; it doesn't end well, the characters don't live happily ever after, and it leaves a bitter feeling from the moment the final credits roll on. So, all those hopeless romantics who expect a perfect ending, beware.
Finally, the adultery. Here, the lovers are shown in a very sympathetic way, almost like in "Brief Encounter". Each character has its own complexity and its own motives to be the way they are. Like Olivier's character, for example, when he states (in a great scene, by the way), that he just wants to be loved.
Excellent movie, a bit depressing but still, very realistic, and worth watching, not only because of Olivier and Jones, but also because it's a marvelous unknown gem of cinema.
In several places, I am informed that the flophouse scene was excised from the American release of this film "because of the political climate at the time." Which is all the information most of the people seem to have or want to give. No details beyond that. Now, I have managed to find a suggestion that it's the idea that a Hard-Working American can end up dying in abject poverty. Which, okay, 1952 wasn't exactly 1932. We were all pretending that the American Dream was real for anyone who worked hard enough. But I think every average American must have known someone, or known someone who knew someone, for whom the American Dream failed. It's just that we occasionally go through this Thing where we aren't allowed to talk about it, and that was the '50s. Honestly, people were surprised William Wyler managed to get the movie made at all.
Carrie Meeber (Jennifer Jones) is a wholesome country girl who goes to Chicago to make her fortune. On the train there, she meets Charles Drouet (Eddie Albert), a cheerfully untrustworthy salesman sort. Carrie loses her job due to an accident (more on which anon), and she happens to encounter Charlie again. He "loans" her ten dollars, which her sister (Jacqueline deWit) won't accept for rent, afraid she knows where Carrie got it. And then Carrie ends up Living in Sin with Charlie, because it's the only way she can keep a roof over her head. Through Charlie, she meets George Hurstwood (Baron Larry), headwaiter at a fancy local restaurant. George's wife (Miriam Hopkins) has managed to get everything they own in her name. So when George falls in love with Carrie, all his savings are not enough to make a new life for them. He ends up stealing money from his employer (Basil Ruysdael) to cover running away with Carrie. He slides further down into desperation, and Carrie ends up a rich and successful actress.
There are actually several things in the movie which seem to have slipped by unnoticed because we were too interested in the flophouse. Like the fact that Carrie loses her job because of a cruel employer. She complains that there is not enough light in the factory, and she's told to suck it up and keep sewing, because the other option is losing her job. When she does, she sews through her finger and so loses her job. She isn't able to get another one in part because a lot of places don't hire women. She basically ends up a kept woman because her sister thinks she's already a prostitute. George's wife is arguably a prostitute herself, however. She is explicitly stated to have married him for his money and done everything in her power to get as much as she can of it in her own name. Initially, at least, Carrie is trying to get honest work. However, what we see is that there's no place for her in the working world. The world expects women to be in a handful of very specific places. George's wife braced herself for it. Carrie doesn't know how.
I've never actually read any Theodore Dreiser, but the movie strikes me as a bit of a condemnation of prudishness, as much of one as can be managed. After all, things would not have gone downhill for George quite so quickly had everyone not been so determined that he appear above reproach. If he had been allowed to divorce his wife peacefully, he and Carrie might have lived Happily Ever After. But because his wife convinced his boss that George's relationship with Carrie would reflect poorly on the restaurant, she also convinced his employer that his salary should be paid directly to his wife. (Which is insane to me on several levels.) Carrie really begins freaking out early in the movie because the little girl next door isn't allowed to talk to Carrie, because Carrie is Living in Sin. Oh, her relationship with Charlie is purely pragmatic, but the idea that it will be better if they're married is odd to me. She'd still be marrying him because it was better than homelessness.
The problem is that the story appears to be preaching a message which the climate was wrong for at the time. It isn't just the idea that hard work isn't enough to get you the American Dream, though that is of course part of it. Carrie, on the other hand, totally lucks into her own success. Maybe it's that the movie skips a fair amount of story, but I was unclear on how Carrie went from ironing George's shirts to standing in line with chorus girls to audition for a show, and from there how she went to a phenomenal success. Wife and Family aren't sacrosanct; George's wife is pretty awful. And a hypocrite--she yells at George for offering a drink to their daughter's boyfriend, but she's perfectly willing to live on the money they get from his being an esteemed headwaiter. (Do headwaiters really make all that much?) Only Charlie is quite cheerfully who and what he is, although he will, if it comes to that, lie about being willing to get married. If he has to in order to keep her there.
An excellent film challenging so many timeless issues that face us all. Lawrence Oliver is wonderful in his role as is Jenny Jones. The screen play is superb. The film bravely ends leaving the audience left darkly. But the directing itself by the renown William Wyler is the greatest achievement of the film. One remarkable scene after another with mood changes, lighting changes and fascinating cinematography. For a slow moving drama this film is nothing short of gripping. Wyler won three Oscars for best director (Ben Hur, The Best Years of Our Lives,Mrs. Miniver) and was nominated nine other times (Wuthering Heights, Roman Holiday).
it transforms into a showcast vehicle for laurence olivier as dashing middle-aged man suffering from a suffocating marriage to a cruel uncaring woman, then he seeks solace from a burgeoning fair carrie as the love of his life. depraved by his obnoxious wife's confinement, he commits thievery to elope with carrie by deceiving carrie into the train with false excuse. but the script grants abundant mercy to the olivier's hurstwood who is merely compelled by the relentless opressions of a frigid woman. and later hurstwood degenerates into street bum, but his torch for carrie remains flamy, at last he condescends himself into panhandling from carrie for a meal. but he rejects her further charity to embrace him back into her luxurious patronship.
it totally neglects the core spirit of the novel and its severe philosophy of life's crude grimness which rots everyone, carrie for vanity and desire, hurstwood for cracked pride...etc. the movie interpretation is naive beautification to smoothen it into a tragic romance, hurstwood becomes a noble gentleman distressed in ill fate, and carrie is a simplistic ingenue with pious faith in love. in the novel, carrie is complicated with peacockish naivety and knee opportunitism which guide her into being a dishonorable mistress trading herself for the extravagenza. hurstwood under dreiser's pen is a duplicious liar who methodically guiles carrie with the complacency to flatter himself with the affair of a young lad, and he cannot take defeats well so he shuns away from frustraction with no backbone, a complete loser demised without name, title, not even a bit concern from carrie.
hollywood is alsways inclined to capsulate literature with sugary romanticism despite the grittiness in the original work, same with "a place in the sun" which is dreiser's another masterpiece sweetened by the studio that transpires into another tear-jerking melodrama. only olivier's performance is worthy of praises for his dignified suaveness, but the whole flick is literarily written for him, isn't it?
Olivier's performance of a broken man who loses everything is so heartbreaking that it left me in tears. He conveys so much through his face, all the hurt, humiliation, loss, and sadness, that it literally brings tears to my eyes just to think about it. The entire film is an emotionally devastating experience, and Wyler's direction perfectly conveys every aspect of the complexities of the relationship between Carrie and Hurstwood. One of the finest examples of what can be achieved in American cinema with the perfect combination of style and narrative.