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

 
 SUMMER STORM (aka: GOODBYE MY LOVE) (director: Douglas Sirk; screenwriters: Rowland Leigh/based on the play "The Shooting Party" by Anton Chekhov; cinematographers: Archie J. Stout/Eugen Schufftan; editor: Gregg Tallas; music: Karl Hajos; cast: George Sanders (Fedor Michailovitch Petroff), Linda Darnell (Olga), Anna Lee (Nadina), Edward Everett Horton (Count Volsky), Hugo Haas (Urbenin), Lori Lahner (Clara), Sig Rumann (Kuzma), Andre Chariot (Mr. Kalenin), Frank Orth (Cafe Maitre D' at end); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Seymour Nebenzal; VCI Entertainment; 1944)

 
"None of the characters were likable, but the tragic story is well-executed by the talented director and Sanders and Darnell give fine performances."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Douglas Sirk ("Hitler's Madman"/"Lured"/"Sleep, My Love") struggles to keep the melodrama based on the play "The Shooting Party" by Anton Chekhov (from his only novel) soulful as a truly Russian experience, but that is not always possible. It's the first time Hollywood adapted a Chekhov book for the screen, and it was made for less than $400,000. Through a flashback from after the Russian Revolution in 1919, the setting becomes Czarist Russia in 1912. The black-and-white photography by Archie Stout adds to the glum mood of the dark, brooding story.

In Russia, in 1919, Count Alexander Volsky (Edward Everett Horton) goes to the office of the Kharkov Times, a publishing house, to offer his old friend Anton Kalenin, the paper's editor, a manuscript. The count has been undergoing financial hardship ever since the Soviets confiscated his estate and hopes to sell the manuscript to get food and drink. Upon learning that Anton has unexpectedly died and his only daughter Nadina (Anna Lee) has taken over the paper, Volsky hands her the manuscript and explains that it's an autobiography written by Fedja Michailovitch Petroff (George Sanders)--Nadina's former fiancé (she broke the engagement after catching him intimately kissing a peasant bride the day of her wedding). After Volsky confides that Fedja is unaware that he has taken the manuscript, he admits that he is unable to read the document because his glasses were destroyed during the revolution and he doesn't have the means to replace them. Taking pity on the fallen former count, Nadina gives Volsky twenty rubles and promises to read it.

After Volsky departs, Nadina begins reading Fedja's memoir. It's set seven years earlier, in 1912, in a summer resort near Kharkov, where the publishing family spend their summer holiday. It tells of Olga (Linda Darnell), an illiterate, scheming, and alluring peasant siren, the daughter of the woodcutter, who is interested in moving up in the world and doesn't care how she does it. Olga lures the middle-aged peasant farmer Urbenin (Hugo Haas), the overseer to the count's estate, to marry her, as she enters the loveless marriage to get away from her strict father. The hot-blooded Olga entertains a few affairs that drive Urbenin crazy, but he chooses to ignore them because he loves his wife. One of her affairs is with the dashing local judge Fedor Michailovitch Petroff who is engaged to Nadina, the daughter of the publisher. Olga also courts the decadent aristocrat, Count Volsky, a doddering old fool who plies her with rich gifts, and she plans on dumping her hubby to marry the fool for his money.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

The judge becomes overcome with jealousy that he can't have Olga to himself, and stabs Olga to death with her own dagger. Thereby throwing away his promising career (as the tortured soul suddenly gives up his post). When Urbenin is arrested for the murder, after being accused by the cowardly judge, Fejda keeps still and prevents the maid (Lori Lahner), who saw him toss the dagger in the lake, from blabbing. Fedja witnesses the innocent man sentenced to a life term in Siberia, and still says nothing. The guilt-ridden judge confesses in his memoir to being the killer, but Nadina doesn't have the heart to turn the confession over to the police and returns to him the manuscript when he comes to her office to retrieve it. The conflicted former judge mails the manuscript to the police, but then has second thoughts and retrieves it from the mailman. The police are summoned, and shoot him while he flees. The manuscript is discarded and never gets into the hands of the police.

None of the characters were likable, but the tragic story is well-executed by the talented director and Sanders and Darnell give fine performances. It's not great Sirk, but it's good Sirk trying very hard to keep it Chekhovian and not a lurid Hollywood sudser.

REVIEWED ON 3/22/2010       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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