BR: Revolt of Mamie Stover, The (1956)

August 25, 2018 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Good

Label:  Twilight Time

Region: All

Released:  July 17, 2018

Genre:  Drama

Synopsis: Steamy tale of an prostitute breaking house rules for a novelist and a side business in war profiteering.

Special Features: Isolated Stereo Music Track / Theatrical Trailer / 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo / Limited to 3000 copies / Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment and www.twilighttimemovies.com.

 


 

Review:

Jane Russell’s final film for Twentieth Century-Fox is this supposedly steamy tale of a prostitute booted out of San Francisco and settling into an upscale but nevertheless exploitive ‘hotel’ run by a Madame and her woman-smacking henchman. Her plan is simple: make lots of money, head back to her hometown in style, and be the envy of every arse that berated her as poor, worthless, white trash.

Things become slightly complicated when she becomes involved with a wealthy writer, breaking apart his current romance, inspiring loathing from his servant, and later trying to remain faithful to the decent guy when Japan’s attach on Pearl Harbor sends her lover to war and leaves Mamie with lots of solo time.

The novel!

William Bradford Huie’s novel could’ve been a 2 hour, hot & bothered melodrama – Fox’s team of effects wizards did a fine job of dramatizing the attack on the harbor and fleeing locals from areas of impact, making a mini-movie – but perhaps Sydney Boehm was pressured into condensing the novel into a simple straightforward narrative that builds towards one vital moment: After all that’s happened between the couple, will there be forgiveness, unity, and a life together?

Boehm’s background in retaining as much prickly sexual tension from literary works for the big screen (The Big Heat, Woman Obsessed) is well served in this slick drama, as is his gift for sharp snappy dialogue. He makes the otherwise preposterous love affair that occurs between Mamie (Russell) and Jim Blair (Richard Egan) during the sea voyage from San Francisco to Hawaii almost believable because his emphasis isn’t on glances or the mystery of will they or won’t they cabin canoodling per se, but the attitude that unites two unlikely lovers. Boehm’s approach enables their attraction to progress after Mamie’s settled into the chicken house run by mean yet savvy Bertha Parchman (Agnes Moorehead, really fun as both a blonde and a tough ball-buster).

The movie edition paperback!

The script’s lean plot lines ensure the romance remains ongoing – if not in Mamie’s thoughts, then in the short sneak-outs and ocean drives she conspires & coordinates with Jim, evading the sharp eye of enforcer Harry Adkins (snarling, baritone voiced Michael Pate) – but the Pearl Harbor attack and Jim’s enlistment to some far off battleground introduces Mamie’s unique and controversial emergence as a powerful force on the island: being Bertha’s star gal, her increased take becomes extremely favorable, and earning more money has her seeing an opportunity in snapping up land by frightened & fleeing locals at fire sale prices, and renting & selling them to the U.S. Government for needed military use.

Director Raoul Walsh (who directed Russell in The Tall Men a year earlier) was no slouch to tension, and while it’s expected the attack sequence would be nicely choreographed, he recognized the charisma of Russell and Egan, two very fit, athletic actors whose chemistry clicked in the treasure diving adventure Underwater! (1953). Egan and Russell’s beach scene flatters the two maturing stars, and signals Mamie’s decision to stop hiding their affair and risk Adkins’ cruelty and stand her ground for what could be a combination of employee civil, social, and sexual rights.

Walsh also does a great job in depicting Bertha’s huge house where thick lines of G.I.’s await to buy tickets to dance, chat, or a bit more with Bertha’s ladies. It’s a dance hall & bar, and the back end is packed with a labyrinth of suites, each featuring a timer, record player, and seating area for the limited sessions between G.I. and Girl.

Leo Tover’s cinematography is gorgeous – the colours in the film are low-key but warm, and the vistas and views from Jim’s hillside home are meticulously composed for Fox’s sprawling CinemaScope ratio. Hugo Friedhofer’s score features a nice main theme and sharp orchestrations, adding to the classy production, and creating an emotional through-line that helps us adjust to a finale that may divide viewers: it’s either logical, or a cruel cheat.

In spite of the excellent cast , some of characters are nevertheless reduced to mere bit players. Jim’s man servant is stoic and suffers silently when attention and household power is slowly being usurped by Mamie, and all he does is stand and shed quiet tears; and Jim’s girlfriend Annalee Johnson (Joan Leslie) is far too agreeable, vanishing from the narrative once it’s clear Mamie is his girl of choice. Leslie is fine as the genial Annalee, but there’s never any ire towards Jim for being pushed away, nor quiet scenes where her and Jim have a conversation of substance; maybe early script drafts featured more material, and the film was ultimately edited down to a tightly paced drama with a handful of unfortunate sacrifices.

Folded into the strong cast is Hugh Beaumont (Queen of Outer Space, TV’s Father Knows Best) as the civil cop who escorts Mamie our of San Francisco, and Alan Reed (Woman’s World, and the voice of Fred Flintstone!) as the ship’s captain.

Russell is strong playing a no-nonsense, determined woman, but the film clearly switches genres for a few minutes when Mamie joins a set of dancers for the ridiculous song “Keep Your Eyes on the Hands” – a blatant attempt by Fox to sell a single… and yet it’s also a somewhat logical extension of her success at as a headliner, given she plays a record of “If You Wanna See Mamie Tonight” for her gentlemen guests to augment her ego and remind clients she’s to be admired, respected, and whatever transpires, cherished.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray sports a crisp transfer and sharp audio, and Friedhofer’s score is isolated in stereo on a separate track. Julie Kirgo’s liner notes are a real treat, celebrating Walsh as a director of tough guy movies with action and strong women (and perhaps a sympathetic eye towards tales of ‘escorts’ wanting a fresh start in a lousy world). This may be one of Russell’s best films and most intriguing role – it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the part – and Kirgo gives respectful nods to co-star Egan and Leslie (High Sierra, Yankee Doodle Dandy), the latter retiring from film and re-emerging in assorted TV movies and episodic work in the 1970s and 1980s. Kirgo also confirms Mamie was indeed a hooker in the novel – her ‘escort’ veil in the movie is wafer-thin.

 

American key art for The Revolt of Mamie Stover.

 

Rebel Woman! in Italia.

 

A Bungalow for Women! in la belle France.

 

Und auch a Bungalow for Women! in Deutschland.

 

Other works by William Bradford Huie adapted for the big screen include Wild River (1960), The Outsider (1961), The Americanization of Emily (1964), and The Klansman (1974), plus the TV movie The Execution of Private Slovik (1974).

Lastly, Glenn Erickson at Cinesavant wrote a great piece on some of the stock footage from the Stover production that was repurposed quite successfully in the indie sci-fi classic Kronos (1957), which is worth a read.

 

 

© 2018 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography
 
Vendor Search Links:

Amazon Canada —  Amazon USA —  Amazon UK

 


 

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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