Female insecurity in a male-dominated world is at the core of this proto-feminist melodrama, dubbed the “feminine version of The Lost Weekend”. Alcoholism as a subject found its way into three of Heisler’s films. In addition, his interest in women’s issues manifested itself in at least six films in which women are the leading characters, most prominently in two works starring Susan Hayward, Smash-Up and Tulsa. Talented singer Angie Evans abandons her profession to support the rising career of her musician husband. The birth of their child ties Angie further to the drab apartment in which she wastes her life, while her husband’s acclaim only adds to her sense of insecurity. She turns to drink and gradually becomes addicted. Told through one long flashback, the story leaves no room for optimistic resolutions, dragging Angie – an adequate performance by Hayward – through scene after scene of humiliation. With a script by communist writer John Howard Lawson – in fact, it’s the last film for which he was credited before being blacklisted in the same year – it’s not surprising that the story also doubles as a critique of a consumerist society, in which people don’t realise that in accumulating possessions they are paying with their own lives. Heisler, despite a low budget, shows a superb sense of direction. It is notable how he tended to tell the same story in different ways – with or without the use of colour. While Heisler’s ominous melodramas usually receive a more introspective and static treatment in colour (as in This Is My Love), in black-and-white the story becomes tensely semi-expressionistic, with many hysterical transitions, covering more ground than is demanded by the actual story (see the excellent montage of New York jazz club marquees during one of Angie’s drinking marathons). In his melodramas, tragedies are abundant; so are insanity, extinction, fear of other people and mob culture. For Heisler, the mere act of living has dire consequences.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: Dorothy Parker, Frank Cavett. Scen.: John Howard Lawson, Lionel Wiggam. F.: Stanley Cortez. M.: Milton Carruth. Scgf.: Alexander Golitzen. Mus.: Daniele Amfitheatrof, Frank Skinner. Int.: Susan Hayward (Angie Evans), Lee Bowman (Ken Conway), Marsha Hunt (Martha Gray), Eddie Albert (Steve), Carl Esmond (dottor Lorenz), Carleton G. Young (Fred Elliott), Charles D. Brown (Michael ‘Mike’ Dawson), Janet Murdoch (Miss Kirk). Prod.: Walter Wanger per Universal-International Pictures Co. 35mm. D.: 103’
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