DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
A LIFE OF HER OWN (director: George Cukor; screenwriter: Isobel Lennart; cinematographer: George Folsey; editor: George White; music: Bronislau Kaper; cast:  Lana Turner (Lily Brannel James), Ray Milland (Steve Harleigh), Tom Ewell (Tom Caraway), Louis Calhern (Jim Leversoe), Ann Dvorak (Mary Ashlon), Barry Sullivan (Lee Gorrance), Margaret Phillips (Nora Harleigh), Jean Hagen (Maggie), Hermes Pan (Dancer); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Voldemar Vetluguin; MGM; 1950)

 
"This artificially dramatic fluff piece seems as if it was ripped out of the pages of a woman's confessional magazine and meant to give the lady readers a scary moral lesson about not committing adultery."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Director George Cukor ("The Philadelphia Story"/"Heller in Pink Tights"/"My Fair Lady") does his best with this "silly and fatuous" melodrama, even though it's still not enough. Writer Isobel Lennart turned Rebecca West's novel The Abiding Vision into A Life of Her Own. Uncredited writers Donald Ogden Stewart and Samson Raphaelson were called in to fix up the messy conclusion, which still seems messy.

The girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Lily James (Lana Turner), leaves her Kansas small-town to be a model in NYC. Lily gets hired by Tom Caraway (Tom Ewell), head of the prestigious model agency. At the agency she's befriended by a former top Caraway model, Mary Ashlon (Ann Dvorak), now a drunken aging has-been. In the evening, Mary arranges a double date for her and Lily with advertising executive Lee Gorrance (Barry Sullivan) and corporation lawyer Jim Leversoe (Louis Calhern), but is disturbed that her regular boyfriend Lee is making a play for the younger beauty. After the drunk Mary throws a temper tantrum at the nightclub, Lily accompanies her home. The next day, Lily learns from the newspaper headlines that Mary committed suicide by jumping out of her hi-rise apartment.

The next day Lily rejects Lee's advances, but remains friends with Jim. When Lily's career takes off, Jim introduces her to his suave millionaire friend, Steve Harleigh (Ray Milland), a Montana copper-mine owner on a business trip to New York. Steve is married, and while in the city the lonely man takes Lily out on harmless dates. Before returning home, Steve realizes that he's fallen in love with Lily and gives her an expensive bracelet to express his affection. When Steve returns to the city, Lily refuses to see him thinking he tried to buy her off with the bracelet. But they soon run into each other in one of the city spots they frequented, and he tells her he will be staying full-time in NYC. They take an apartment together and things are going well, but when Steve tells her his invalid wife Nora (Margaret Phillips), who can't walk as a result of an accident three years ago, will be visiting for his birthday, things get tense. Lily gives Steve the elaborate party she planned, while Steve spends a quiet evening with Nora.

It concludes with Lily asking to meet Nora, and coming away impressed that she has a real affection for her husband and is dependent on his support (needing him more than she does). With that, Lily decides not to be a home-wrecker and gives Steve up. Lily is left thinking that if she's not resolute, she'll end up a suicide like Mary.

This artificially dramatic fluff piece seems as if it was ripped out of the pages of a woman's confessional magazine and meant to give the lady readers a scary moral lesson about not committing adultery.  

REVIEWED ON 4/1/2010       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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