Repeat Performance (1947)

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Can we change the past by reliving it?
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US / 92 minutes / bw / Bryan Foy Productions, Eagle–Lion Dir: Alfred Werker Pr: Aubrey Schenck Scr: Walter Bullock Story: Repeat Performance (1942) by William O’Farrell Cine: Lew W. O’Connell Cast: Louis Hayward, Joan Leslie, Virginia Field, Tom Conway, Richard Basehart, Natalie Schafer, Benay Venuta, Ilka Gruning.

Every now and then one comes across a movie that ought to have the status of at the very least a minor classic yet has somehow been largely forgotten. Repeat Performance is such a movie. It tells a highly intriguing, emotionally involving story and, in so doing, hardly puts a foot wrong.

It’s a few minutes before the start of 1947 and the streets of New York are full of merry celebrants. In her luxury apartment nearby, however, famous Broadway actress Sheila Page (Leslie) stands over the corpse of husband Barney (Hayward); in her hand is the gun with which she’s just shot him. What could have brought her to this pass?

There’s a thunder of fists on the apartment door and a chorus of shouts from beyond it. Casting the gun aside, Sheila flees—out into the streets and to a club where her friend, the poet William Williams (Basehart, whose first screen role this was) is drinking with actress Bess Michaels (Venuta) and English playwright Paula Costello (Field). Sheila tells the sympathetic William what she’s done, and he suggests they go ask the advice of Broadway producer John Friday (Conway), a kind and generous man who’s an angel in more senses than one . . . especially to Sheila, whom he clearly adores from, figuratively speaking at least, afar.

Paula (Virginia Field) tries to pretend she and Sheila are all pals together.

However, as Sheila and William approach the door of Friday’s apartment, she wishes aloud that 1946 had never happened at all, that she could relive it avoiding all the pitfalls that made it such a rotten year for her—and, in fact, for William. She turns on the stairs to discover that William is no longer with her.

And, speaking moments later with a bewildered Friday, she slowly begins to cotton on to the fact that the new year that’s just beginning isn’t 1947 after all: it’s 1946. Just as she wished for, she’s been given the chance to relive the year.

John Friday (Tom Conway) is bewildered by Sheila’s claims that it’s 1947.

What errors will she avoid making? For one, she’ll Continue reading

Christmas Eve (1947)

vt Sinner’s Holiday

US / 93 minutes / bw / Miracle, UA Dir: Edwin L. Marin Pr: Benedict Bogeaus Scr: Laurence Stallings Story: Laurence Stallings, Richard H. Landau Cine: Gordon Avil Cast: George Raft, George Brent, Randolph Scott, Joan Blondell, Virginia Field, Dolores Moran, Ann Harding, Reginald Denny, Dennis Hoey, Clarence Kolb, Joe Sawyer, John Litel, Konstantin Shayne, Douglass Dumbrille, Carl Harbord, Molly Lamont, Walter Sande, Claire Whitney.

Xmas Eve - 0 Ann Harding excels as Aunt MatildaAnn Harding excels as Aunt Matilda.

Eccentric elderly NYC spinster Matilda Reed (Harding) has permitted some of her estate to be managed by her nephew Philip Hastings (Denny) but has kept control of the main part. Now, horrified by the amounts she’s been giving to charities, Philip has enlisted the aid of Judge Alston (Kolb) in trying to get her declared unfit to handle her own affairs, so that he might take over the entirety of the estate. And indeed, visiting the old woman with psychiatrist Doremus (Harbord) as ballast, the judge has to admit that “Aunt Matilda”—as she’s universally known—is certainly quite dotty: she attracts pigeons into her dining room to feed them, and uses a sophisticated electric train set to serve meals at the dining table.

Aunt Matilda naturally resents the encroachment, and declares that she’d rather her estate were handled by any one of her three adopted sons—all of whom flew the roost to make their own ways in the world but told her that, if ever she needed them, they’d be there for her. Philip, who knows more about the sons than Aunt Matilda thinks, scoffs at the idea. But the judge agrees that, if she can produce all three sons at the house on Christmas Eve, he’ll believe her claims of mental competency.

In turn we see three episodes about the sons, interspersed with scenes of Aunt Matilda, her redoubtable butler Williams (Hoey), and the gumshoe she hires to assist her search, Gimlet (Sawyer).

Xmas Eve - 2 The intriguing shadow of Harriet (Molly Lamont).

The first son up is playboy Michael Brooke (Brent), who’s seeking to solve the problem of his mounting debts by marrying heiress Harriet Rhodes (Lamont). The problem is that Harriet is one of the causes of those mounting debts: he’s been passing off rubber checks all over town to the tune of $75,000 in order to woo her with jewels and raiment. The other problem is that lovely salt-of-the-earth broad Ann Nelson (Blondell) loves him and wants him, and if truth be told he wants her too. Philip finds Continue reading