The Hays Code assured that no fictional sinners went unpunished in imaginary celluloid universes for decades. This prehistoric advisory measure was especially devoted to making sure that anyone who dared to have sex onscreen paid an unforgettably epic price.
Thus, Joan Fontaine and Louis Jourdan suffer grandly in 1948’s opulent Letter from an Unknown Woman. After being abandoned by Jourdan’s Stefan Brand, a famous piano playing cad, after one night of bosom heaving passion, Fontaine’s adoring Lisa Berndle faces down single motherhood, a loveless marriage and typhus. Brand, meanwhile, finds his career drifting away due to his excessive debauchery and finishes out this scenario facing the wraith of an angered nobleman’s dueling pistol.
Almost gothic in its sumptuousness, this tale is further highlighted by Fontaine’s theatrics, especially as she enacts Lisa’s childhood curiosity in the film’s first act, and by Jourdan’s almost aching early career handsomeness.
The Genre Boudoir:
Jourdain added continental flair to 1977’s Count Dracula, 1982’s Swamp Thing and its 1989 follow-up, The Return of the Swamp Thing. Fontaine, famously did award winning work with Hitchcock in such dark melodramas as Rebecca and Suspicion. She later brought an appropriately grandiose hysteria to Hammer Film’s 1966 small town cult epic The Witches.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!
The mind-blowingly insecure (myself included) will always relate to the tender hope and brilliant confusion that the divine Joan Fontaine perfectly illustrates as bookish Lina in Alfred Hitchcock’s nicely realized 1941 thriller, Suspicion. As the suave Johnny (played with handsome charm by the legendary Cary Grant) pursues and eventually marries her, Fontaine brims with devoted confusion. Of course, just when she seems sure of his affections, Lina finds herself believing that financially troubled Johnny is capable of murder and presently plotting her death to gain the insurance money.
Hitchcock works with his typical slow boil, here, making marvelous use of shadows and ably coloring ordinary exchanges with a feeling of dread and suspense. Fontaine, who won the Oscar for her portrayal, flawlessly assists him in his goals. Thriller enthusiasts may find disappointment in the ending, as contrary to the source material, Johnny’s innocence is revealed. Pesky studio executives thought that if Grant played a cold blooded killer that his reputation (and box office appeal) would be tarnished.
But, what does emerge is a full portrait of a woman in various (true to life) emotional stages. Nothing is for certain in our existence, therefore Lina’s journey from shy to sure to questioning, results in a suspense filled love story that anyone with (even a dab of) sensitivity can, eventually, relate to.
Happy (Bloody) Valentine’s Day — and until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!
What I leave in my wake are cookie crumbs and a body outline composed of potato chip wrappers. They don’t call me Messy Baby for nothing!
Joan in The Women.
Fortunately for celluloid geeks, the elegant Joan Fontaine (1916-2013) left behind a legacy of classic films including such suspense masterpieces as Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941) and that forever catty call to arms The Women (1939). Genre enthusiasts can thrill to her distinguished portrayals in projects such as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961) and The Witches (1966), as well.
Another of her interesting fantasy style roles occurred on a 1960 episode of the para-psychological series One Step Beyond. As Ellen Grayson in “The Visitor”, Fontaine brings a weary worldliness to her portrayal of a recovering alcoholic. Recuperating at a snow capped cottage, Fontaine’s Ellen has determined she must get out of her long dead marriage. Her husband, played by Warren Beatty, 20 years younger than Fontaine at the time, is not so happy to hear this, though. Storming out into the night, he crashes his car.
It is then that the show takes its ghostly turn. Fontaine is surprised at her home by the appearance of a handsome stranger whom eventually turns out to be the younger version of her husband. (Beatty, again, but without the previous gray-face that he had been sporting.) After some heartfelt revelations, he disappears to Fontaine’s horrific shock.
Will what he revealed save their dormant relationship? Or will Fontaine/Ellen drown her surprise in several Molotov cocktails? Whatever the case, Fontaine’s dignity and beauty add much to this sentimentally supernatural enterprise. She was – and forever will be – a Cinema Queen!
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan