Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Random Review - December 12, 2012



 Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
Writen and Directed by Preston Sturges



CAST: Rex Harrison as Sir Alfred De Carter; Linda Darnell as Daphne De Carter; Rudy Vallee as August Henshler; Barbara Lawrence as Barbara Henshler; Kurt Kreuger as Anthony Windborn; Lionel Stander as Hugo Standoff; Edgar Kennedy as Detective Sweeney; Alan Bridge as House Detective; Julius Tannen as O'Brien; Torben Meyer as Dr. Schultz. 

Unfaithfully Yours begin with Alfred, a famous orchestra conductor arriving in town from London.  At the airport, Alfred meets his wife, Daphne and her sister, Barbara and her husband, August, and Alfred’s business manager, Hugo.  We find out that August had been looking after Daphne while Alfred was away.  But August actually thought that Alfred wanted her literally followed, so he hired a detective.  This angers Alfred.  August gives Alfred the detective's report which he tears to pieces.  As the film continues, Alfred keeps receiving a copy of the detective’s report.  Finally, when he meets up with Detective Sweeny, he rips up the original report so no more copies can be made.  But then Sweeney tells Alfred that Daphne had been seen with Tony, suggesting an affair.  Later that night, Alfred heads to the concert hall for this performance.   

Over each number, Alfred envisions three scenarios of on how he would evoke revenge on Daphne.  The first vision is a skit where he murders Daphne and pins the blame on Tony; the second is Alfred forgiving Daphne and writes her a check for $100,000; and that last is Alfred forcing himself, Tony and Daphne to a game of Russian roulette, resulting in Alfred shooting himself.  The films ends with Alfred in a prolonged slap stick skit of trying to orchestrate Daphne’s murder, which, of course, completely fails.  But at the end he learns that Daphne was not with Tony.  Yet, Daphne never finds out what was on Alfred’s mind - the three imagined scenarios of her death.

An object that plays an important, but subtle role throughout Unfaithfully Yours is the use of zippers and in relation to Alfred's reluctance to read the detectives report.  During the restaurant scene, early in the film, Alfred approaches August and asks him for the detective’s card.  The image cuts to an extreme close up of the wallet as August unzips it and retrieves the card.  Of course, Alfred tears the card into pieces.  But what is striking about this moment is that Sturges amplifies the sound of the zipper to draw our attention to the object, suggesting that there is something happening in Alfred’s head that neither the spectator nor the characters are privy to. One possibility is that Alfred has always been insecure about his marriage to Daphne because of his age.

For example, Alfred states to Daphne before heading to his concert, (paraphrasing) “Movies fits your culture better.”  So when Sweeny tells Alfred that his wife was with Tony, he assumes the worse, which leads to his visions of enacting revenge on them.  It is at this point in the film Sturges “unzips” Alfred’s head so we can see his mind's eye - the three fantasy sequences.   

But for Daphne and the other characters, they are “zipped up” and, of course, not accessed to Alfred's visions.  They can only hear the music, oblivious on why Alfred acts so peculiar at the concert.  In between the numbers, Hugo approaches Alfred backstage praising his conducting. Hugo ironically states to Alfred, “What vision do you have in your head?” It is only at the end, when the letter finally arrives at its destination, that Alfred learns that Daphne did not commit adultery.  All the work Alfred put into ripping up the detectives story, Alfred finally gets the truth of the letter, which zips the story shut.

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