THE GREAT FLAMARION
T. it.: La fine della signora Wallace. Sog.: dal racconto Big Shot (1936) di Vicki Baum. Scen.: Anne Wigton, Heinz Herald, Richard Weil. F.: James S. Brown Jr. M.: John F. Link. Scgf.: Frank Paul Sylos. Mus.: Alexander Laszlo. Int.: Erich von Stroheim (The Great Flamarion), Mary Beth Hughes (Connie Wallace), Dan Duryea (Al Wallace), Stephen Barclay (Eddie Wheeler), Lester Allen (Tony), Esther Howard (Cleo), Michael Mark (guardiano notturno), Joseph Granby (detective), John R. Hamilton (coroner). Prod.: William Lee Wilder per Filmdom Productions, Inc. DCP. Bn.
The life of Erich von Stroheim seems to have been ready-made for film noir. Anthony Mann’s superbly hectic yet downbeat noir The Great Flamarion, in which Stroheim stars, reveals both his high veneer and the irreparable damage it bore … It’s Mann’s film, but Stroheim’s performance, character, and story are so powerful and so exemplary that his very presence in a movie makes it his own – a reflection of his life as well as of his art, on both sides of the camera.
Richard Brody, “The New Yorker”, 23 May 2012
Mann’s reputation today is based primarily on the Westerns of the 1950s … The morally complex interrelationship of hero/villain, which is partially accountable for the remarkable intensity of his films, has at its roots the film noirs of the 1940s. The darker side of human nature, the interiority of these earlier, psychologically troubled characters, is the determining force in Mann’s noirs …
By The Great Flamarion, Mann had begun learning the process by which unlikely material could be molded into something personal, or, failing that, at least somewhat subversive. The all-badgirl format, the mirror image of the equally popular innocent-wife-driven-insane-by-diabolical-husband plot, becomes the basis for a sporadically effective and generally entertaining melodrama. The resources of Republic provide for a number of extensive tracking shots into a theater and around the perimeter of an orchestra pit. Characters are framed with precision and incisiveness in the course of these tracks, establishing more complex relationships than the screenplay indicates. The plotting of Mary Beth Hughes vis-a-vis Erich von Stroheim and other of her victims takes on conventional, as well as unexpectedly subversive and humorous, connotations, again provided almost wholly by Mann’s choice of camera placement and angle. Hughes sizing up her next victim in a portentous low-angle shot or scheming in two-shot is undercuttingly amusing as is the devastating image of pretentious, delusional Erich von Stroheim dancing around a hotel room on the wings of love. The many shots accentuating the kinkiness of Stroheim, such as the close-up shaving of his head, offer additional amusement at the expense of the screenplay’s more lofty aspirations.
Robert Smith, Mann in the Dark, “Bright Lights”, n.5, 1976