Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Unguarded Moment (1956)

After the murder of a woman in the city of Ogden, high school music teacher Lois Conway (Esther Williams) becomes the target of an anonymous admirer. Receiving notes that quickly go from flirtation to veiled threats, Conway is convinced it’s one her students playing a prank. When she receives an invitation to meet the admirer one night in the school's deserted gym, she goes willingly, hoping to confront the offender and have him desist. Annoyance turns to fear when she is attacked in the locker room by the culprit. When the police catch her fleeing from the scene she is questioned by Lt. Harry Graham (George Nader) who informs her that a rapist/murderer is on the loose. At first Conway is not convinced that her student is one and the same. She still thinks she can break through to whoever it is, and much to Lt. Graham’s dismay, she doesn’t divulge much information. However, the admirer becomes more brazen, even breaking into her home to steal the letters he wrote. Things become even more difficult when she suspects it is the high school football star, Leonard Bennett (John Saxon), whose father, Mr. Bennett (Edward Andrews) is rich and influential.  Having no real proof of being threatened and suddenly being accused of being the pursuer, Conway finally enlists the aid of Lt. Graham. The tension between them is lessened when they realize part of it comes from being attracted to one another. Together, they go after their target revealing that despite certain appearances, much lays below the surface of this particular culprit.

Having made a name off her talent as a swimming beauty, by 1955 Williams had completed her contract with MGM and found her watery vehicles on the wane. So, it was quite a gutsy move to accept the offer from Universal to do this sex infused psychological thriller. Unfortunately, it didn’t pay off for Williams. Which is unfortunate because this is actually a very good B film with a very good plot line. However, though Williams is great in the film, the real star is Edward Andrews. His portrayal as the creepy, misogynistic father of Leonard is a far, far stretch from the Andrews I grew up knowing: “Dong (clap, clap), Dong! Where is my automobile?” The only issue I have with The Unguarded Moment is the constant barrage of sex between Conway and Graham. It’s too much to expect from a single woman who is being violently threatened by another man to be willingly manhandled as she is throughout the film.  Their quick and sexual report is too inconsistent and since it’s a big element in the film, it gets in the way of a truly good story.

Trivia: Guess who helped to write it?
In her own autobiography (which is actually quite good), Rosalind Russell revealed, "I've often worked on the material, on movie scripts (as I did with the play version of Auntie Mame), but only once did I actually get screen credit as a writer. A young man named Larry Marcus and I had an idea for a story about a schoolteacher who's attacked by one of her students. We sold it to a man who later sold it to Universal who made it with Esther Williams, who was very good in it. I had fun with Larry Marcus. So that we could concentrate without a thousand interruptions, I finally dragged him off to the Hotel Del Coronado, down at the beach, and sequestered him there until we'd finished our story. I knew we'd never get it done otherwise. We spent a week working, and I only let him go to his room to sleep. About five o'clock every afternoon I'd take him out on the beach and walk him up and down - it was winter - like he was a puppy "This is all you get, Larry, this air," I'd say. "Breathe in a lot of it, because after dinner, we start work again." The picture was called The Unguarded Moment. I wish I could tell you it was Gone with the Wind." - TCM

Tonight on TCM!
Mildred Pierce (1945)
A woman turns herself into a business tycoon to win her selfish daughter a place in society.
Dir: Michael Curtiz Cast: Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott. --If you haven't seen this, I kindly ask you to remove yourself from under the rock you are living under and do so.

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