BORN TO BE BAD (director: Nicholas Ray; screenwriters: from the novel All Kneeling by Ann Parrish/Edith R. Sommer/Charles Schnee; cinematographer: Nicholas Musuraca; editor: Frederic Knudtson; music: Frederick Hollander; cast: Joan Fontaine (Christabel Caine), Robert Ryan (Nick Bradley), Zachary Scott (Curtis Carey), Joan Leslie (Donna Foster), Mel Ferrer (Gobby), Harold Vermilyea (John Caine), Virginia Farmer (Aunt Clara); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Sparks; RKO Pictures; 1950)
“Trashy but stylishly entertaining melodrama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Nicholas Ray (“Rebel Without A Cause”/”Johnny Guitar”) dips down a few levels from his illustrious opus to helm this trashy but stylishly entertaining melodrama. It’s passable as a routine Hollywood woman’s pic about bitchy social climber Christabel Caine (Joan Fontaine). She fools most of those in her inner circle (not her cunning artist friend Gobby (Mel Ferrer)) by her innocent act, and gets her hooks into the wealthy Curtis Carey (Zachary Scott) by cuddling up to him and disarmingly saying poisonous things about his fiancée Donna (Joan Leslie)–an employee for her publisher uncle John Caine and her temporary roommate while she visits uncle. Christabel also fends off novelist Nick (Robert Ryan), a stud suitor under contract to her uncle and a good friend of Donna’s. Nick has the hots for Christabel and after six months of marriage, where she plays the busy social do-gooder by serving on numerous society charity committees, the bored Christabel resumes her affair with the just published Nick. At this point, Christabel doesn’t care if hubby knows–her plan is to take him to the cleaners in a divorce settlement.
It moves in trite soap opera circles reaching a predictable outcome; but, Ray keeps all the viciousness going at full blast, thereby drawing an ugly picture about the bankrupt emotional state of society life. Fontaine has a change of pace from her usual “nice” image heroine role.
It’s based on Anne Parrish’s novel All Kneeling; the caustic screenplay is by Edith R. Sommer and Charles Schnee. The men are all cast as sex objects–for either their looks (Nick), talent (Gobby) or their money (Curtis). The women rivals cast long looks at each other that can kill with either sweetness or enmity.
REVIEWED ON 12/29/2004 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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